The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce, continues the tale of Alanna. Although now she is officially a knight, the revelation to the rest of the kingdom that she is also a woman has lead to some awkwardness at court, so she decides to spend the first years of her knighthood adventuring in the desert. She falls in with the Bazhir, a desert tribe, where she explores her roles as a leader, a Gifted magic user, and a woman.

I listened to this book on audio (like the second book in the series, In the Hand of the Goddess) and enjoyed it completely. I loved the different accents, especially those of Alanna's little desert apprentices. I remembered virtually nothing of this book from the first time I read it, ten years ago, so I was constantly looking for opportunities to turn it on in the car.

This novel had more complexity than the previous two. Alanna grows in maturity as she deals with the "real world." She no longer has the rules and structure of the palace to guide her decisions. She is now autonomous and has to deal with making difficult choices. She has to decide if she will fulfill the responsibilities her new tribe, the Bloody Hawk, expect of her. She has to decide who she will love and the type of life she hopes to lead, especially when faced with bumps in a previously picture perfect relationship. She also has to face her fear of her magic when she finds herself unexpectedly in the role of the tribe shaman.

I continued to love the characters more and more. The narrative was action packed, with constant challenges to Alanna due to her status as a northern knight and her womanhood. However, the characters do not take second place to the plot. They are fully fleshed out with their own idiosyncrasies and personal challenges. With every book, I find myself liking Alanna more and more. Her larger-than-life status as the first woman knight in over a hundred years and her professed skill at everything could make Alanna unbelievable and "too perfect" - however, her prickly temper, insecurities, and blunders make her seem human and someone that I could relate to.

I think this is my favorite Alanna book. When I was younger, I always liked the first book best because I thought the adventures were the most interesting. This was when Alanna was first learning to disguise herself as a boy and working to keep up with the boys. However, in this book Alanna really explores who she is. She has to learn to accept parts of herself she has always been uncomfortable with and choices she regrets. So, basically, I loved it.

Readability/Accessibility: Very easy to follow on the audiobook
Aesthetics/literary merit: 3.5. Definitely not a classic, but well written.
Plot: 4.
Characters: 4.5
Personal Response: 4
Overall: 4

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