Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: Alanna

Alanna: The First Adventure
by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness #1)
Published: September 1st 1983 by Athenium Books

“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.”

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.
It seems like a sin that this book was first published in 1983 - when I was 3 years old - and that I'm only reading it now.  Alanna: The First Adventure is a classic fantasy adventure that I can't help but wish I'd discovered as a kid, even though I enjoyed the hell out of it as an adult!  It's just one of those stories that I can see my younger self becoming seriously obsessed with though.  The fantasy elements are understated in their simplicity but that's part of where this story gets it's charm and appeal.  I was swept away with Alanna's adventures into knighthood and rooting for her every step of the way.

Alanna: The First Adventure feels like it's the original 'girl posing as a boy' fantasy story.  We've all read at least a few of the newer versions of this trope, but it seems to me that this is where it all started..  The basic premise of Alanna was one I took to straight away: the fact that Alanna and Thom are twins, both dead-set against the roles they're forced to take by their father - roles dictated by their genders.  Knighthood calls to Alanna, while her brother wishes to be a sorcerer.  When their father sends them off for schooling in their respective, predetermined roles, Alanna suggests that they switch things up. Unbeknownst to their father, they set off in disguise.  Alanna will go where her brother should have, and train to become a knight and Thom will be free to become a sorcerer.  If their disguises hold up that is...

 Alanna and I hit it off straight away.  It's hard not to admire a young woman willing to do anything to accomplish her dreams. With her strong will, crafty lies and her magical abilities, she's a force to be reckoned with. The way she manages to go beyond simply fitting in, to making a name for herself among the boys was wonderful to behold and while I did worry that her secret would be discovered every step of the way, I also had a blast every single time she fooled someone into believing her lies.   Alanna makes quite a few friends along the way and though some of them could have done with better character development, others like Prince Jonathan, George the King of Thieves, Coram and Sir Miles, the knight/teacher were fantastic to get to know!  I sincerely hope that the relationships Alanna has forged in this book will continue to develop in further books.

The villains of the story were a bit underdeveloped as well, but it's clear by the end of the book that we haven't seen the last of either of them.  Hopefully the rest of the series will offer a little more insight into both of their characters, specifically their motivations.  Being the first book in a series though, a certain amount of details were sure to be omitted and held out for future books, so I didn't let it bother me.  Additionally, there was quite a bit of foreshadowing regarding Alanna's future so I feel certain we'll be getting more details in the sequels. In any case, the story was fun enough on it's own without having all the answers straight away.

One last thing I wanted to discuss was magical items! I freaking love discovering new magical items and artifacts and Alanna: The First Adventure marks the discovery of Lightning, Alanna's magical sword.  That discovery, when coupled with Alanna's own magical gift of healing left me super excited to see how both of those assets will serve her in the future.  All things considered this was truly a little gem of a book.  I've already went ahead and ordered the boxed set for the series because I only owned an e-book version of this one and after having finished it, I know I need physical copies since I'll surely be re-reading this series in the future.  I never tire of a light, fun magical romp with plenty of heart and character.  I'd recommend this book to any and all fantasy readers that haven't had the joy of reading it yet.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

16 comments:

  1. Yay Alanna!! I only read this series when I was in high school and they're SO GOOD. Pretty sure it's where my immense enjoyment of all books with the girl-disguised-as-boy trop started XD I love all the Tortall books (and need to get my own copies since I originally borrowed them all from the library) and each get better and better. You get to watch Alanna grow up, and then she still pops up in the companions and yeah. I need to stop rambling/fangirling.

    I hope you enjoyment of the series continues! And better late than never!

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    1. YAY! I'm still thinking about the story now! I had SO MUCH FUN with these, I can't wait to have the boxed set in my hands and continue on with the stories :D I didn't even know there were companion books! Eeep ♥ And you totally could have kept fangirling/rambling Bec XD Thanks!!

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  2. Haven't heard of this before. I guess it's a classic now.

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  3. I somehow missed this during my childhood, too- it definitely sounds like something I would have loved then, as well as something I would love now. I've seen so much praise for Tamora Pierce's books and totally need to get acquainted with them.

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    1. I truly think you would enjoy these as well Lee^^ even though we both missed the boat as kids hehe! I can't wait to continue on with the series :D

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  4. Ahhh this is a series I need to re-read! I really loved it as well as the series that come after. Such good times! I read the first book then bought the rest of the series as well, I read everything that same month a few years ago. :)

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    1. Awww, I didn't know you'd read and loved these too Kelsey! And I actually just found out that there was a series following this one, I'm SUPER excited :D

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  5. Gender-bending, I have heard enough! I love this trend. There is something exciting about a story where a girl is portraying to be a boy (and I wish there were books with boys-turning-into-girls too) I need to check it out ASAP!

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    1. YESSS! Oh I hope you love it as much as I did Mel ♥ Oh and this one has both a girl-turning-into-boy AND boy-turning-into-girl!! Although, admitedelly, Alanna holds the spotlight much more but still, I thought it was beyond cool :D

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  6. I agree with Bec, better late than never! I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, I still need to read it (aha, whoops) but I have read and enjoyed Pierce's Protector of the Small series, which has kind of the same concept. Love the review!

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    1. Agreed^^ I hope you get a chance to get into this one as well, it's so brilliant! And I know I'll be checking out the rest of Pierce's collection a.s.a.p.! Thanks Alise :)

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  7. This will shock you, I know, but I haven't read this series either! I blame my parents for not seeing to my proper education ;-). It sounds like I would enjoy it as an adult though, so I'll try to snag a copy somewhere :D

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    1. hahaha! Well, that makes me feel a bit better ;) I think you'd really enjoy this one too Anya, I hope you can get your hands on a copy soon :D

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  8. I'm a bit jealous that you read this actually! I mean, I've been meaning to read this for, like, FOREVER. It is a classic after all and it's weird to think that self-proclaimed fantasy fans like us wouldn't have read it yet. Anyways, it's sounds fab - and will hopefully improve with the subsequent books. I'm hoping I'll get to read tis soon as well! Great review :)

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    1. Awwww, it was the same for me, I'd had it on my tbr shelf for AGES - I'm SO happy I finally read it though ♥ And you're right, I felt a little bit like a fantasy-fraud for not having read it yet. I hope you read it soon too and that you'll love it as much as I did :D

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