No matter how many times I read the Beka Cooper series, I am entranced by the stunningly simple and provocative words. This time, Beka is after forgers and her chase brings her to the bright and vibrant port city. Here Beka is not only forced to face up to a Rogue gone very wrong, but also her own feelings towards a man, and the first movements of a binary view on women that are beginning to surface. This story is not only a great addition to the world of Tortall, but it begins to tell the tale of just why Alanna is forced to hide her gender when she becomes a knight many generations later.
It doesn’t matter how many times I read this book – I love it every damn time. Although Terrier is another tale set in the world of Tortall, it is so incredibly unique and different from the other tales set in this world. Partly this is because it is set hundreds of years before the Song of the Lioness Quartet, but it’s also because Beka is just so completely different from the other heroines throughout the series. she is from a lower social class than any of the other characters, and occupies a world that is nothing like the rest of the realm of Tortall that we’ve been introduced to.
Lioness Rampant is a great conclusion to the Song of the Lioness quartet. Alanna’s years of travel, training and testing help to bring her powers to the fore. And luckily, because this is an epic battle and journey that helps to cement her fame as a hero in the Tortallan world. Yet, it is also where Alanna is able to come full circle – she finally accepts herself for everything that she is, she finds herself someone that she wants to spend the rest of her life with, and she is able to find her place in the world that makes her happy and fulfilled.
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.
Lady Knight is a fantastic conclusion to Protector of the Small quartet. All of Kel’s hard work has finally led to becoming the first recognised Lady Knight in a hundred years (that is, after Alanna’s secret journey to this position). And, although it means travelling to the war-torn border, Kel is finally on her journey to complete the quest outlined to her by the Chamber of Ordeal. The hand of fate is on this story, and although it twists and turns in so many ways, it is a journey that is almost impossible to put down.
Kel’s years as a squire help to build upon all of her many adventures in First Test and Page. Although her one epic battle (which every main character really requires) doesn’t get revealed until the very end of this novel, the entire journey to this point is full of twists and turns. Her position as the King’s Own Squire and new friendships help to weave a new tale of a life full of learning, hard work and joy.