The Woman Who Rides Like a ManThe Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third book in the Song of the Lioness quartet and finds our heroine Alanna as a young woman, newly knighted and finally off on her own adventures. As it often is with heroes - and knights - it isn't long before Alanna stumbles into trouble while crossing the desert with her loyal guardian Coram and her magical cat, aptly named Faithful. As the first female knight, when Alanna is captured by the very traditional members of the Bazhir tribe, she's forced to defend her right to be called...The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. If pressed, I'd have to say that this installment was a solid addition to the series, though it never reaches the strength that the first novel put forth.
By Tamora Pierce - Song of the Lioness #3
Published March 1st 1986 by Atheneum Books
Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death—either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mysterious fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman—despite the desert dwellers’ grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes—for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.
As a knight, it's impossible not to be proud of how far Alanna has come. Against all odds, she's now the very first female to be knighted. She has earned the respect of her King, taken down formidable foes and now that everyone knows she's a woman, she can finally be true to herself. Alanna is brave, level headed, independent and also incredibly stubborn. For real. Readers who felt like Harry Potter was too stubborn have clearly never read The Song of the Lioness Series! Alanna could out-stubborn Harry any day. To go along with that fact, her reluctance to use her natural gift of magic remains, and at this point in the series, it started to baffle me to be honest. I'd give anything to have magic, so it's hard for me to relate with someone so incredible gifted, but too single-minded to use her abilities. The way Alanna sees it, magic can be used too easily for evil purposes...which it's true, but I wanted to shout at her that the same could be said for ANY kind of power! A Knight could go bad, so could a King, or a Politician. Alanna on the other hand is good, so clearly she'd use her magic to that effect. Needless to say I was delighted when she was finally put in a position where she had to learn to work with her power.
The Bazhir tribe that too Alanna on were intriguing and well portrayed. Their customs, as well as their magic were quite different of what Alanna was used to but it soon became clear that she was doing a good job of fitting in amongst them. Naturally, there were a host of new characters to get to know, chief favorites included: Halef Seif, the leader of the Bloody Hawk Tribe, Ali Mukhtab, the 'Voice of the Tribes', gifted with 'The Sight' and Kara and Kourrem, two young girls of the Tribe, both of whom Alanna takes under her wing. Akhnan ibn Nazzir, the Shaman of the Tribe was definitely not a favorite though. He was more of a major pain in the ass. Straight up. There are those characters that you love to hate, and then there are those who you just wish would die straight away. Akhnan ibn Nazzir is the latter. Ugh. Moving on: returning characters included Prince Jonathan, The King of Thieves George Cooper and Sir Miles, Alanna's mentor, all who appear approximately halfway through the story.
So far, I don't think I'd talked much about the ships in this series, but that's going to change: Since the very start, Alanna has had two men vying for her attention, but it's never formed a love-triangle because it was always clear who Alanna prefered. I didn't ship this pairing but her mind seemed pretty made up so there really wasn't any point of me fussing over any of it. In this book though, Alanna's prefered choice started to grate on my nerves. I'd liked him well enough before - just not enough to sail a ship - but in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, he'd morphed into an arrogant, spoiled brat. It was a relief when something finally went down to clear things up - here's hoping it stays this way!
I found that the plot here was a bit thin compared to the previous installments. Some of the events seemed random, and though their full meaning is revealed at the end, it wasn't enough to fully win me over. The action scenes were always short lived, and Alanna spent a lot of time doing 'normal' things, for someone who is constantly complaining about her need for adventure. Despite some annoyances with a few characters and plot points, the story had no problem holding my interest. It's hard not to be taken by a story that is so amazingly feminist, especially considering the time when it was published. Alanna earns the respect that any male knight would get, even though it's hard earned more often that not. She's also in no rush to get married, or have kids, and she even has sexual relationships. Le gasp! I once again found myself wishing I'd read these in high school - I probably would have been taken with the series even more back then. I'd definitely recommend it for fans of short classic fantasy stories, with a feminist twist!
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars