Over the holiday break, I was looking for a fantasy novel that was a bit on the lighter side and my fiancee suggested that I check out Tamora Pierce’s books. I started with Alanna: The First Adventure and am quite glad that I gave it a shot.
Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.
What I Liked
Alanna is a very compelling young protagonist. She is courageous, clever, and tenacious. I also enjoy the relationships that Alanna develops with the boys who are training alongside her and the people that serve as teachers and mentors. In particular, her friendships with Prince Jonathon and a criminal leader named George are well-developed and seem to set up a possible romantic conflict in later books.
Tamora Pierce also touches on some excellent themes that would likely resonate with the middle-grade target audience. One of the early conflicts centers around Alanna’s experience with a bully and how she deals with him. It’s not a grand battle between epic warriors. Instead, it’s a very real conflict that too many young people face in real life. Along with bullying, Alanna also deals with the challenges of finding her place in the world and doubting herself. At times, she wonders if she can succeed as a knight as a girl. Pierce navigates these themes in a way that I think girls and young women would enjoy.
The writing is also very fast and light. The plot kept moving, never getting bogged down in unnecessary details. I easily blew through it in a couple of hours of total reading time.
What I Didn’t Like
There isn’t much that I don’t like about this book. The only issue I have is that the writing and some of the characterizations are a bit too light and simplistic, even though it made for a quick read. I prefer a bit more complexity and depth to plots and characters. However, that is probably just because I’m older than the target audience. The book seems to be aimed at a middle-grade to young adult audience, so I think a young reader would really enjoy it.
I really enjoyed reading Alanna: The First Adventure and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a fun and fast read. I especially recommend it for younger readers because of the light writing style and the themes that girls and young women would likely relate to. If this sounds like something you or a young reader you know would enjoy, definitely check it out.
You can find Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce here on Amazon.