Title: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet #3, Tortall #7
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Medieval fantasy, Strong women
Publisher: Omnibus Books
5th sentence, 74th page: “You remember Hakim Fahrar, the man you fought?” Alanna nodded.
Newly knighted, Alanna rides for the desert in search of adventure. Captured by the Bloody Hawk tribe, she must challenge ancient tribal customs if she ever hopes for freedom. But how can she convince the tribe to change, when their powerful shaman cries hourly for her execution? Tradition demands she prove her worth in a magical duel – to the death. And while she is away from the palace Alanna must also choose between marrying Prince Jonathan or living alone as the knight she has strived so hard to become.
The entire Song of the Lioness quartet is about acceptance for me – acceptance of the differences (and similarities of others), acceptance that things are not always as they seem, and most importantly, acceptance of yourself. Although Alanna is forced to accept herself as both a woman and a warrior within the first two books, her ability to come to terms with both her magic and her recent past are seriously challenged, and eventually resolved in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man.
The conclusion of In the Hand of the Goddess sees the death and foiling of Alanna’s primary enemy throughout the series. Yet, as with every good heroine, she isn’t easy about her hand in dealing out death to another. It takes her an entire year (the time which the book covers) to truly realise that sometimes there is nothing else you can do. Realising that she probably made mistakes in her pursuit of Roger’s evil, and acknowledging that there were things she could have done differently were so important to this healing process. It is something that acts as a wonderful reminder on a daily basis – we all have things in our past that we regret, but there is absolutely nothing we can do to change the past, so really, we need to focus on how to overcome the future.
Alanna’s acceptance of her magic also comes to the fore in this novel. Through teaching others and living with a people so completely removed from her own, she is able to learn to accept all of her gifts, not just the ones that she actually enjoys using (such as sword work). She goes from being a young woman afraid of a very big part of herself to a confident, and knowledgeable mage who is able to protect others with all of her being. Obviously we’re not all mages, but it is a good reminder that we are who we are, and there is nothing that can change that.
Although for me The Woman Who Rides Like a Man has a very powerful message of acceptance, it is also just an amazingly good book to read. Alanna’s trials and tribulations, her relationships and her ability to keep going when all of her enemies have stopped make her a great heroine to follow. Her temper, and the sheer honesty of some of those she holds dearest inject the sometimes serious aspects of the story with a little humour, and a sense of joy that would otherwise be missing. Pierce does a great job of writing a story for young girls about a fiery, passionate young woman – something that we all need in our lives.
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