Why I Read It: Re-read, in this case. This was one of my favorite books growing up (my copy is falling apart) and Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite children’s/YA authors. I hadn’t read it in far too long, so I decided to listen it as an audiobook.
My Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Alanna of Trebond is not your typical girl. Her father (a lord) expects her to become a gentle lady, and her twin brother, Thom, to become a knight. This idea is torture to both of them: Alanna dreams of becoming the greatest knight the kingdom has ever seen, and Thom wants to be a sorcerer. So they come up with a clever plan to switch places, with Alanna cutting her hair and renaming herself Alan. She enters the squire program at the palace, where she must face physical and mental challenges unlike any she’s ever experienced before, learn to control her burgeoning magical skills, and deal with new enemies–all while attempting to disguise her true identity.
My Review: This book seriously holds up. It’s not often that I can get just as much pleasure out of a book at age 23 as I did at age 10. It’s just a phenomenal story, and Alanna is such a badass. She’s easily one of the best YA heroines ever written–strong, smart, and confident without ever devolving into a cliche. I love Alanna so much, and I definitely credit her (and Tamora Pierce) in part with my early interest in feminism. Although I wasn’t really like Alanna–I was the furthest thing in the world from a tomboy–she did exactly what she wanted and didn’t let any person, or society’s expectations, stop her. She’ll always have a place in my heart for that alone.
The story is great, too. It’s set in Tortall, a pseudo-medieval fantasy world, very similar to Westeros (all of Pierce’s books are kind of Game-of-Thrones-for-kids, in a good way) and so there’s a good balance between the magical and the realistic. Pierce creates a great cast of secondary characters, namely George, the so-called “King of the Thieves,” and Jonathan, the kingdom’s prince, who are Alanna’s two best friends (and two of my biggest YA fiction crushes, although they’re not as swoon-worthy in this book).
This is the first in a 4-part series, and while to my memory the other books are stronger in terms of mythology and plot, this one was always my favorite. It’s clearly a set-up for the rest of the books, but it’s got a sweetness and simpleness that I appreciate. It’s a bit like the first Harry Potter book–definitely the weakest in the series, but it’ll always be one of my favorites simply for opening my eyes to that world.
And like I said, this really holds up! I was captivated the whole time, even though I knew most of the plot by heart. The prose is smart and not dumbed down at all, which I appreciated even more as an adult. It’s a genuinely good book, not just a good kid’s book.
Should You Read It: Yes! And give it to all the young girls (hell, all the young guys, too) that you know.