First, a brief introduction to Tamora Pierce: She rocks. I distinctly remember my friend Lily reading Emperor Mage (The Immortals: Book 3; roughly seven reviews from now). I was intrigued, but Lily refused to let me read it. “You have to read the first book,” she said, so she lent me “Wild Magic.”
I devoured that book, and the three that came after it, but it wasn’t enough. So I back-tracked to read the Alanna books. Then I read Tamora’s next quartet. There was a brief spell when I read the Circle of Magic books, but they were set in a different world (and also didn’t have any romance), so they didn’t hold my interest, so I returned to Tortall.
I know that female protagonists in YA literature aren’t exactly rare, but few female protagonists have as much fire and fight as those created by Tamora Pierce (the Sarah Dessen girls come in a close, close second).
In a fit of nostalgia, I’m going to re-read all of Tamora Pierce’s books–Tortall and Circle of Magic–and review them for you, gentle readers. So buckle up, because it’s going to be epic.
The World: All of these books are set in a country called Tortall, which has always vaguely reminded me of England in the Middle Ages, except polytheistic and with magic. Several other countries are mentioned–or featured prominently–throughout Tamora’s books, and one of my favorite things to do is decipher what country (or countries) she draws from to create these worlds. But more on that later.
In Tortall and the surrounding areas, magic is referred to as the Gift, and people who possess magic are Gifted. They are trained to become mages, and so on and so forth. The Gift manifests in colored fire–the color of the fire depends on the person. Honestly, the Gift is one of my favorite fictional approaches to magic, ever, including Harry Potter (I know).
The Plot: 10-year-old Alanna of Trebond doesn’t want to be trained as a dull, boring lady. Her twin brother Thom doesn’t want to be a knight. So when their absent-minded father sends them in opposite directions, Alanna takes matters into her own hands. She cuts off her hair, changes her name to Alan, and switches places with her brother. It’s a fool proof plan! Thom can be trained as a mage, and Alanna can learn to fight.
“The First Adventure” is the first of four books centered around Alanna and her friends (among them George Cooper, the king of thieves, the swoon-worthy Prince Jonathan and a myriad of other knights-in-training). It covers Alanna’s four years of page training, and her eventual promotion to squire (to the heart-thumpingly attractive Prince Jonathan. Okay, I’m done.)
The Good: Alanna has a temper that often gets the best of her, so she’s always fun to read about. The day-to-day training of knights is also fascinating (to me, anyway), but if you’re into that, Tamora gets REALLY into it in Protector of the Small, her third series (eight reviews from now, so stay tuned!).
Both Alanna and Thom are Gifted, and their fire is purple (to match their startlingly awesome purple eyes). Jonathan has the Gift as well. George has the Sight, which is similar, except his magic is limited to seeing far away, telling when people are lying, et cetera. I love when main characters have magic, so I’m always super psyched to hang with a mage like Alanna.
My favorite parts are every scene with George. I am unabashedly in love with him. When Alanna gets her period for the first time, she is scared shitless and goes to George to look for a (non-palace) healer. George takes the news that his friend Alan is actually a 13 year old girl named Alanna with such ease you can’t help but love him.
The Bad: I have to say, this book is kind of bland, especially when you compare it to the other three in this series. It’s a book that you have to read, but don’t let it sour you on the entire series, because trust me, the second book is amazing.
The Verdict: “Alanna, The First Adventure” is a good (if not particularly exciting) read, and it’s quick. It’s a lot like the first Harry Potter book, except without Quidditch. It’s a lot of setting up the characters for later books, but it sets up the characters well.