A very unique, and thoroughly enjoyable spin on The Sword in the Stone. With a little bit of a hint of Robin Hood thrown in. Or at least, that’s the flavour that I got from Holly and Iron. And it’s one that I thoroughly enjoyed. After all, they are two classic tales, and they blend seamlessly together in this fantastic short story.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this novella since I first read it! I love the idea of four sisters set in pre-Christian Europe, and the very different roles that they all play in their lives and the safety of the kingdom. Rose (the main sister in this story) is so clear and striking in my mind’s eye, and I find myself returning to her story again and again. She is the epitome of what many women must have experienced in that era – married to a man she doesn’t love, whilst yearning for the one that she does.
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.
Alanna’s final years as a knight-in-training are everything that her first years as a page were – they are filled with laughter, danger and intrigue. The revealing of her secret at the end of Alanna: The First Adventure just helps to further her tale as she continues to battle enemies, both inside and out. Yet, as she gets older, the stakes are also raised, and Alanna is constantly forced to face even greater challenges. Not to mention that In the Hand of the Goddess brings forth her patron – the Mother Goddess.
Tales of women masquerading as men occur again and again in both classical and modern literature. After all, in a society that is patriarchal in nature, the idea of dressing as a man to get the recognition and follow the path that a woman wants isn’t that ridiculous. Pierce’s adaptation of this classical story works beautifully in the Song of the Lioness Quartet. Alanna’s choice to pursue her chosen future, regardless of the consequences shows a level of gumption and courage that few truly have. Her ability to fight for what she believes is right is completely admirable and it makes this story impossible to put down.
I’ve loved the idea of Shang warriors since the first moment they were mentioned in Alanna: The First Adventure, so finally finding a story about one… indescribable! Kylaia is briefly mentioned in the Song of the Lionness series, and it was difficult to imagine how a woman would become a master of her own body, to the point that she is able to kill a man with her bare hands. It is easy to understand how the rest of the Tortall women choose to pursue their destinies – their parents were involved in wars, they fell into the situation, or they are stubborn nobles who decide to forge a slightly unique path. Yet, the idea of someone becoming so honed in their body that they are chosen for the Shang way of life… it finally makes sense!
Bonedancer has been an incredibly cheeky enigma of a character since his conception in The Emperor Mage. So, as with all series, it was incredibly fun to read a short story that featured this slightly obscure creature. That it is also pared with the reproductive cycle of Spidrens, and an eventful day out that involved pursuit, rogue mages and theft just helped to make this short story all the more enjoyable.