Alanna: The First Adventure

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tamora Pierce was my main reading fare for sixth grade. Every day, my friends and I would meet in the library before class and during our ten minute break, on the back wall over by the P authors. I don't remember if we found Tamora Pierce by accident or not. I know my friend Jess was the first one to pick up Alanna and then we all followed, vying for the next book in the series and others by Pierce as we got through all of them.

I decided to reread this little gem because I am rereading the final book in the series as part of the Birth Year Challenge hosted by Hotchpot Cafe. I've already enjoyed a few revisits to Alanna over the years (just the first novel) and I was excited to do it again.

The premise: Alanna and her twin brother are about to be sent away by their noble, absent-minded father - Alanna to a convent, to learn how to be a lady, and Thom to learn how to be a knight. Alanna has always been a tomboy and wishes she could be a knight. Thom wants to learn more about the powers he and Alanna possess in order to become a sorcerer (and conveniently, the place to learn about these powers is the convent). They decide to switch, and the book follows Alanna through the "page" phase of learning to become a knight.

I've heard that you shouldn't go back to the books you loved in earlier days, because the magic will be gone. However, I don't think this was the case with Alanna. Her adventures are still interesting to me and as I couldn't remember exactly how everything turned out, still exciting as well. This book has a little of everything - fighting, politics, friendship, magic, and of course, a taste of the awkwardness and change of puberty, compounded with the fact that Alanna is hiding the fact that she is female. On this revisit, I really enjoyed the magic aspect of the novel. I have been needing a little more magic in my life. :)

Another thing I really appreciated was that while Alanna does have a lot of help (becomes friends with strong, respected pages, has a contact in the city she can trust, has magical powers) she also works really, really hard to excel at becoming a knight. She has to - she is short, inexperienced and a girl (and no matter how capable girls are, they still have proportionally smaller lungs, hearts, and muscles). Alanna is a character we can respect, which I think is important in YA fiction, and also a character we can like, which is important in all fiction.

I give this book 4 out of 5, keeping in mind that it is a YA novel. It is primarily a plot-driven story and there isn't a ton of complexity, but it is a good, light, entertaining read.


  1. My experience with the books from childhood is that I can see their limitations (usually in oversimplification, as you pointed out) but the love is still there. Glad to hear you are enjoying this one the second time around.

  2. I loved these books! This makes me want to reread these too :)

  3. sometimes i'm a little scared to go back to books i loved when i was growing up, but like you say, i don't have that problem with tamora pierce's books. i don't know what it is (that i loved the books so completely when i first read them? the degree to which they've wormed their way into my brain?), but these books are among the few that i think i'll be able to revisit for the rest of my life. i can tell now that pierce's writing isn't the best, but with plotting and dealing with those awkward issues like puberty, she always does a fantastic job... i can't think of an author who deals so well or so directly with issues like teen sexuality. awesome post!

  4. @J.G. - Yes, it has definitely been fun to revisit this one! The next few in the series are proving even better, and I'm excited to get to the final novel for your challenge.

    Kels - I didn't know you read these! Did you read any of the other series by Tamora Pierce? I read the other ones that were out when we were 11 or 12 or whenever but I definitely liked the Alanna books the best. - Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I am so glad I am revisiting this series and might have to go back to a few of her others, and maybe some of the books that have come out since I stopped reading her books. She really writes some original plots. I am currently listening to the 2nd book on CD when I commute and it is even better to listen to (not my usual reaction with books on CD!). :)


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