Last year, I discovered Tamora Pierce and read her Protector of the Small quartet, the third of her series set in Tortall. I really enjoyed it so I made it a lot t to read Song of the Lioness, the first series in that setting.
Not only is Song of the Lioness is the first Tortall series, it is also the first young adult work by Pierce. It was originally written as a single volume for adult readers and ended up being revised into four books for young adults. It is also considered a milestone for young adult fantasy and feminist fantasy.
And, yeah, I liked Protector of the Small better. Which I think is a good thing. An author should get better as they go along. The pacing and the character development were better in the Protector of the Small, although character development in the Song of the Lioness is a strong point.
The Song of the Lioness is about Alanna, a girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a knight. Along the way, she also becomes a sorceress, a shaman and an all around hero. It’s also so high fantasy that having a room that basically a benign eldritch abomination in the capital castle is considered normal.
I don’t want to spoil the plot of the stories but I went in expecting a coming-of-age story and got much more of straight adventure stories. Three of the four books lead up to her fighting some kind of big bad.
My favorite book was the third one, The Woman Who Rides Like A Man. It’s the Taran Wanderer of the series.
Okay. Some spoilers.
Having earned her knighthood (and had her gender revealed) at the end of the second book, as well as resolved a major ongoing conflict, Alanna now has to figure out what to do with herself after achieving her life’s goal. Honestly, it’s the only book where I didn’t see the plot coming.
Which comes back to my comments about character development. While I don’t think the Song of the Lioness is a coming of age story, it is about Alanna figuring out how she relates to a world that doesn’t have a place for her. She is flawed but determined.
While they aren’t perfect, the books in the Song of Lioness are strong. I can see how they had an impact on young adult fantasy (and a reminder that that existed before Harry Potter) and feminist fantasy. I am sad that, to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been any plan to adapt them to other media and a wider audience.