Today's review is for Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. This book was first published in 1983. However, on December 7 Atheneum re-released the book (for the fifth or sixth time, at least) with a spiffy new cover. I love this new cover almost as much as I love this book, so it's going to be my first Thursday re-read.
"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.
For me, Tamora Pierce was the start of a life-long love of Fantasy work. Alanna: The First Adventure is the first book in her Tortall world, and a wonderful introduction to her work. Alanna is a very strong character. Pierce captures the emotional turmoil and the physical stress of being a woman in a man's world, and still manages to interject humanity, humility, and humor into a courageous, strong character. The main character's appeal speaks to many women, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that this series was one that was passed around the female barracks when I was in the military. Pierce's use of magic is subtle, creating a world where humans use magic as a tool but magic itself still has a say to reward or punish people using it according to their aims. The plot is well-crafted and follows logically without being predictable or stale. The ending is a bit off, but I believe that is because it was a) the first book of a new writer, and b) written as the first quarter of a novel (the publishers broke The Song of the Lioness book into 4 parts to publish as a series). It is not too abrupt, though, and it doesn't matter as much since the whole series is readily available in libraries and bookstores. In all, this book is the beginning of a huge world of must-read books, and every fan of fantasy should read it!