Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: In the Hand of the Goddess

In the Hand of the Goddess
by Tamora Pierce  (Song of the Lioness #2)
Published September 1st 1984 by Atheneum

"I don't want to fall in love. I just want to be a warrior maiden."

Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna's liege lord, he is also her best friend -- and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince's life, it will take all of Alanna's skill, strength, and magical power to protect him -- even at the risk of revealing who she really is...

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's second adventure continues the saga of a girl who dares to follow her dreams -- and the magical destiny that awaits her.

In the Hand of the Goddess is the sequel to Alanna: The First Adventure, one of my new favorite classic fantasies from this year. Naturally, I was anxious to keep going with this series and see what adventures Alanna would get up to this time around.  I listened to this one on audio and despite the fact that I'd read the first one, the transition from book to audiobook was easy. The narrator did a really good job voicing Alanna as well as all of the secondary characters so that was a plus. I will undoubtedly be listening to the rest of the series on audio!

In the Hand of the Goddess picks up not too long after the events of The First Adventure. Alanna, still posing as a boy in the hopes of becoming a knight is now officially a squire to none other than Prince Jonathan himself! With everything that Alanna went through on her way to becoming a squire, and she's become quite the force to be reckoned with, which means two things: 1. she's grown a lot, become stronger and more confident. And 2. she's made some enemies along the way. Powerful ones at that.  Soon Alanna is tested even further as a war looms and she must protect her Prince and her Kingdom from its destruction.

Right from the first chapter, I was brought back to what makes this series great.  We're introduced to Alanna meeting her very own animal familiar, a magical black cat with matching violet eyes to her own.  Instantly, she adopts the sweet thing and names him Faithful.  Faithful and Alanna quickly learn that can communicate with one another and that Faithful can sense when Alanna is in danger. Knowing how much I love magical animals and cats in general, I think you all can guess how over the moon I was about this new development.  In addition to Faithful, there's the usual variety of unique magical items that seem to the a staple in this series. This time around, there was an enchanted amulet to go along with Alanna's epic sword but I won't divulge what the amulet does, because: spoilers ;)

Despite it's impressive beginning which also included a Goddess, as the name would suggest,  I found that In the Hand of the Goddess couldn't quite escape the dreaded 'second-book syndrome'.  The war was an engaging twist, but it failed to deliver as much battle-action as I would have liked.  Then, there was the new romantic development.  As much as Alanna vows to never fall in love, she becomes a young woman in this installment and begins to have feelings for...someone. The focus on the romantic side of things was a little surprising, considering how insistent Alanna has always been about not falling in love. The romance itself wasn't unpleasant. In fact, it was downright believable but it never really successfully made me swoon like the best ships do. Even the final showdown with the main villain (so far)  fell a bit flat for me, which was surprising considering that the tension had been building since the first book.

I also have to share about a personal pet-peeve: when authors age up characters up very quickly and/or time jumps ahead by increments for no clear reason. I don't know why, but it bugs me. When I become attached to a character, I like to see them grow/mature in a normal progression. Alanna seemed to go from a young squire to a woman in the blink of an eye. I found myself wishing that Tamora Pierce had slowed things down considerably, even if it meant that Alanna had stayed younger for longer.  I feel like she was aged up quickly just to add romantic tension to a story where the heroine didn't really need romance to begin with. At least not straight away. I just wanted to see my girl grow up normally!

Regardless, In the Hand of the Goddess was a solid follow up, even if it fell short of its predecessor. I enjoyed being reunited with Alanna, returning to Tortall, and watching the wonderful magic grow and evolve anew.  I cheered along with all of Alanna's friends as she made the journey into Knighthood, which was filled with it's fair share of exciting ups and downs, not to mention a few good twists thrown in for good measure! This series is a must for classic fantasy readers and I'll definitely be reading all of the rest of the books by Tamora Pierce.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

12 comments:

  1. That series does look good, but I'll wait until the next book is released to see if the "second book syndrome" disappears - I recently read a series that started out with a big bang but let me down along the way, so I'm being cautious...

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    1. Oh all the books are out^^ they came out in the 1980's, if you're curious just look them up on GR! They're classics so I have a feeling things will only get better :)

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  2. This was one of my all time favorite series growing up. I've read these books a million times, and my personal copies have seen better days. I never thought about what you said about Alanna growing up super fast, but she totally does. I believe though that the author intended the books to be more for an adult audience and she was asked to take out a lot of the romance to make it more YA (in a time when there wasn't a lot of romance in YA or YA period). I think I heard her say this. That might explain it a little bit. I can't wait to hear what you think of the rest. Book 3 is my favorite. Also, I love Faithful too.

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    1. So she would have taken out a lot of the romance?! Well I guess I should be glad for that because the romance wasn't my favorite part in this installment. I think that maybe it's just because it was so jarring to have her go from young squire to young woman so quickly - especially with how insistent she was NOT to fall in love. But yeah, Faithful was the BEST and such a highlight ♥

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  3. I remember reading the first book and liking it a lot, except that I had wished for a little romance, aha. Now that there is romance, it's too bad it wasn't super swoon-worthy or impressive. Plus it is kind of hindered by the fact that Alana doesn't have too much development between squire and woman. Ah well, I'm glad you enjoyed some aspects of it :) Nice review, Micheline!

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    1. LOL well then I highly recommend reading the sequel soon! It's not a bad romance at all, in fact it made sense and was pretty sweet, I just wished Alanna had had more time to grow up and be a girl before turning into a woman. If you were looking for romance, you might just swoon over this one ;) Thank you Alise xx

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  4. Aww, Faithful sounds adorable! ❤ I really want to read this series; I don't remember coming across it back in the day, but maybe that's worked out for the best because I think I would appreciate the fantasy elements a lot more now. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series, Micheline! :D

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    1. Faithful was such a highlight for me (naturally) ♥ LOL I don't recall ever coming across this series back in the day either but it's never too late for a quality classic fantasy - with a feminist twist :) Thanks hun^^ xx

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  5. Alanna!! this was one of the series I read when I first discovered fantasy. Love all the Tortall books so much. Though I must say I think this was my least favourite of the Alanna books

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    1. So far a few other people have mentioned that this was their least favorite installment, which is a relief! It means I wasn't the only one AND it means the series will pick up from here :D

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  6. I am still so impressed and in awe of you, managing time to read the classic fantasies right along with the new ones! It is too bad that it didn't quite live up to the first book (I think I would share your view on the quick aging process), but I remain very much intrigued with the premise and concept of the series. I mean, how could I not when there are magical animal familiars involved! Lovely review :)

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    1. I can't help it LOL, the classic fantasies that I missed out on growing up have left a gaping hole in my fantasy resumé, or in my heart or something. It feels like I NEED to read them. Fans of the series have told me that this one was their least favorite of the series - which means the rest will only get better again, like the first book! And yeah, I ADORED the magic and animal familiars ♥ Thanks sweetie^^

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