Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!own a little piece of my soul. She's right smack dab there in the company of Harry, Aerin, Meg, and Dicey. As I think about those girls and the effect they initially had (and continue to have) on me, I'm back in that familiar circle of awe. What would I do without them? Alanna got me through being 13, and years later I think about her on a regular basis. I realize so much of your connection to characters and their stories has to do with the age at which you as reader make their acquaintance. And, truthfully, I'm not at all offended if you come to the Song of the Lioness quartet later in life and don't find yourself as fully bowled over as I was (though I will likely nudge you in the direction of finishing the series just to see because they're short, what can it hurt, plus the characters grow up, the books get better and better, and really no one should miss that ending . . . ). But all fangirling aside, I will say that it is impossible to overstate how hard I fell for this series and that imagining my life without them is not only distasteful but unfathomable.
Faced with being unwillingly separated and sent away to the palace and the convent respectively, twins Thom and Alanna of Trebond take matters into their own hands. Born out of Alanna's determination, the twins decide to switch places. Thom will go to the convent to train as a sorcerer. Alanna will masquerade as Thom's twin "Alan" and train to be a knight. When she's won her shield and proved her worth to king and court, she will reveal her true self and make her way as a knight-errant in search of adventure. It all seems so easy initially. But, of course, the unusual course she chooses reaches into every aspect of Alanna's life and alters it. Because, her obvious deception aside, she has also been gifted with certain abilities that she fears, abilities that could ruin her chances at the life she wants if they come to light at an inopportune moment. It is therefore with a certain reluctance that Alanna makes friends among her fellow pages at the palace and the denizens of the capital city of Corus. Going it alone feels like the safest course. But Alanna soon learns that she will need what friendships she can cobble together if she is to embrace all of who she is and survive the swirling danger lurking in the bowels of the castle.
"That is my decision. We need not discuss it," said the man at the desk. He was already looking at a book. His two children left the room, closing the door behind them.That first page still makes my stomach all jumpy. And basically those of you who love girls in disguise tales can sign up here. Alanna was one of my very first experiences with such a story line, and the danger and audacity and excitement got to me something fierce. She captured my loyalty and affection in one fell swoop. Because she knew what she wanted, and she was going to get it if it killed her. But along with that dedication and, yes, ruthlessness, came incredible loyalty, the voracious desire to learn, and a great capacity for love and friendship. Far from perfect, however, Alanna screws up. Royally. She says the wrong thing, she stumbles over her doubts and fears, and she occasionally doesn't see what's right before her eyes. But she's so vibrant and hell bent on being the first female knight in more than a century, and she always, always owns up to her mistakes and rectifies them. Happily, she is surrounded by a killer cast of mischievous pages, loyal retainers, wise women, gallant knights, dubious dukes, one noble prince, one arch nemesis, and one steal-your-heart-and-never-return it thief. And it's these secondary characters who provide such wonderful fodder and foils for our would-be knight. Because of them, the humor and the grand coexist in top-notch harmony. Returning to Tortall is like returning home. And Alanna? She still feels so real to me, it's as though I could reach out and grab her arm. When she grimly deals with her changing body, I feel her frustration. When she awakes from countless nightmares of the obstacles and responsibilities awaiting her, I gulp along with her and wipe the sweat off my brow. And nothing, but nothing, will keep me from reading her story to my daughter when she's old enough. Because Alanna is one of those girls she will need to know. Who will remind her that it's okay to be different, it's okay to rail and rage at life, that she can hold in her hands the dreams closest to her heart, that she is strong, too.
"He doesn't want us around," the boy muttered. "He doesn't care what we want."
"We know that," was the girl's answer. "He doesn't care about anything, except his books and scrolls."
The boy hit the wall. "I don't want to be a knight! I want to be a great sorcerer! I want to slay demons and walk with the gods--"
"D'you think I want to be a lady?" his sister asked. "'Walk slowly, Alanna,'" she said primly. "'Sit still, Alanna. Shoulders back, Alanna.' As if that's all I can do with myself!" She paced the floor. "There has to be another way."
Alanna: the First Adventure
In the Hand of the Goddess
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Retro Friday Roundup
April @ Good Books and Good Wine reviews Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Liviana @ In Bed with Books reviews Sabriel by Garth Nix
Kay @ The Infinite Shelf reviews Being Nikki and Runaway by Meg Cabot
Melissa @ One Librarian's Book Reviews reviews Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer
Emilia @ That Midwestern Library Type reviews Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Book Harbinger review
Good Books and Good Wine review
See Michelle Read review
Unabridged Andra review
What I Read and What I Thought review