Thursday, 28 March 2013

Alanna: The First Adventure

Level: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Obtained: Purchased at Barnes and Noble
Reviewed by: Maggie W.


This isn't the cover that my original copy of the book had, but I had to purchase another copy because the one I had when I was 9 is in pieces on my bookshelf. I really like this cover. The font they used for part of the title looks like it was carved using a sword, appropriate for a book about someone going through training to become a knight. The sword featured on the cover looks just like it's described in the book, another plus, since many of the previous covers featured her holding a sword about the size of a large dagger. Even the slight glow surrounding her is the same as the color of the magic of someone in the book with close involvement with her(purposely vague since that doesn't happen until the second book in the series). Even the slightly fog covered castle fits with the book because of how uncertain Alanna is about her future in knight training. All in all I'd give this cover an A. 

About the Book:

This is book one of the first quartet of books written in the Tortall universe by Tamora Pierce. I first read her books when I was about 9 years old. I have to admit that though I'd read other fantasy books, Lord of the Rings, etc. this book was responsible for me falling in love with fantasy as a genre. Even at 9 years old I was a budding feminist, and while I loved the mix of magic, mythology, and alternate history that fantasy stories featured it was hard for me to really identify with them because there were so few that were written from a female prospective without falling into the "woe is me, pathetic princess trope". Tamora Pierce has been a great writer of feminist friendly fantasy stories for over 25 years. Though I have read all her books countless times, I continue to go back to them because her leads are such great role models for adolescents. Her books show that girls can kick ass just as well as the boys can, while still having strong male characters.

Rating: 9/10

Warning, this entire review is a big ol' giant spoiler.

Alanna is different from most girls her age. Most noble girls her age with the gift are being sent off to the Temple of the Goddess to train their magic and wait until a husband is picked out for them. The thought of this being her life horrifies her. She's incredible jealous that her identical twin, Thom, is being sent to the capital city to begin knight training. Thom on the other hand would rather do anything other than getting knocked around for 8 years during knight training. He'd rather go to the City of the Gods to train in magic and become a powerful sorcerer. It's while talking about this with her twin that Alanna comes up with a crazy plan. Thom will go to the City of the Gods and Alanna will disguise herself as Alan and go to the capital to become a knight.

As she arrives Corus, she briefly meets a thief named George who later becomes one of her closest friends. The morning after arriving at the palace after a 5 day journey Alanna, or rather Alan, is immediately thrown into training with the other boys. From dawn to late into the night all of their hours are taken up by either academic lessons, physical knight training or serving their duties in the palace. Exhaustion is a bit of an understatement. To top it off, Alan, being one of the smallest boys, and newest to the palace is singled out by an older page Ralon. Being smaller than everyone else, Alan's usual weapon of choice is his quick wit. Not always the smartest move when most dumb bullies resort to using their fists when confused.

The first time she loses a fight with Ralon, some of the older pages, including Prince Jon, that she's become friends with try to teach him a lesson. Alan realizes that he can't rely on his friends to fight all his battles for him and knows he needs to learn to better defend himself. Knowing that Ralon is getting the same type of training than he is, Alan seeks out help from George, knowing that learning some street fighting tactics that the King of the Thieves uses would be useful in gaining an upper hand over someone older and bigger.

After weeks of training with George, Alan finally gains the confidence to confront Ralon. It's using these dirty fighting skills that make Alan able to beat Ralon and embarrass him enough that he leaves page training all together.

It's shortly after this that the people of the palace start to come down with a mysterious illness. Most healers in the palace are able to cure illnesses using their magical gifts but this illness seems to do nothing but drain healers combating it of their strength, sometimes killing them, leading to the death of the ill person soon after. It isn't until his close friend Prince Jon falls ill that Alan realizes that she has to do something. Up until this point in the story, Alan hasn't really told anyone the extent of his gift but after showing the royal healer a bit of his gift, they figure that there's nothing left to lose. After a long battle, that nearly drains him off all his strength, Alan is finally able to get rid of the illness in Jon. After talking with George, who has contacts outside of the city with thieves all over the country they realize that this illness only effected those in the palace. When they realize that it was only after nearly all the healers in the palace were so weakened that the heir to the throne fell ill they suspect that it may be part of a plot to kill the royal family.

When fully recovered from the sickness the pages are sent out to another part of the kingdom, the Great Southern Desert, to observe a meeting with the Bazhir, nomadic tribes people that live there. The Black City which is located in the Great Southern Desert and is guarded by Bazhir magic has tempted many children and teens of the Bazhir people into it's abandoned streets. The Bazhir say a great evil lives there and placed a ring of fire around the city to keep people from wandering there. No one is sure why periodically young people are drawn there never to be seen again.

Jon somehow convinces himself that going to the Black City would be a great idea. Alan goes along hoping to either convince him to turn back or keep him from too much trouble. It's in the Black City that they confront what the Bazhir had been protecting people from, the Ysandir, demons that ruled over the Black City long ago. They'd been luring young people to the city with magic in order to consume them and remain alive. In order to escape with their lives Alan and Jon manage to combine their magic to defeat the Ysandir, who have become weakened from the Bazhir allowing fewer people there. During this battle Jon discovers that his friend Alan is in fact a girl named Alanna. After realizing that he owes his life to her, he agrees to keep Alanna's secret and thus continue her knight training in the next book, In The Hand Of The Goddess.

I adore this book and though many people briefly glancing at it may think some of the plot devices a bit over done (disguising your sex for a different life, etc), Pierce manages to make it her own and have it read like it's never been used before. The whole series is written on a level that can be both understood by younger audiences and enjoyed by older ones. She also manages to write a smart, strong female lead while easily managing to keep her from being turned into a horrible Mary Sue, not an easy task.

What I am reading next:

Haven't decided but I'll update this when I do decide. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great article about the first adventure.Thanks a lot for sharing this article.Its really to good............