Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

Title: The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness #3
Pages: 284
Publisher:Simon Pulse
Date Published: December 1986
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Genre: High Fantasy
Source: Bought (like...10 yrs ago)

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

My Review:
Right from the title you can assume a lot about this book. It's got a kick-ass heroine. There's going to be some gender issues. And that Tamora Pierce/her design team might have had trouble coming up with a name for the third book in the Alanna series...lol...Don't get me wrong...I'm probably one of the biggest Tamora Pierce fans out there...but wow...of all the titles in the world...THAT'S the one that had publishers shouting "Eureka!"??? Still, The Woman that Rides Like a Man is a great story, despite it's not so great name. It's the continuing adventures of Alanna, now that she is the first lady knight in over two centuries.

This book in the series is where it really branches away from the direction that the plot had previously taken. Up until now, we've been growing and learning along with Alanna on her quest to become a knight. For the most part she's been in the castle among friends and enemies while she comes to accept her magic and her love for Prince Jon. However, at the beginning of this book, Alanna leaves almost everything she's ever known behind to begin her adventures around the realm to build her legend, and let the fact that she's a girl sink in with all those stuck- up nobles. Due to her intense dislike of the cold, it isn't surprising that she chooses to head south into the Desert with her companion Coram and her cat Faithful. The journey doesn't go as planned though and she is waylaid by Bazhir who take her into their camp for questioning.

While in camp, Alanna is recognized as one of the heroic team who destroyed the Ysandir, a power hungry mythic race that stole children from the Bazhir until Alanna and Jonathan stopped them. A series of fortunate events (or unfortunate depending on who's looking at them...) see Alanna into becoming the tribe's magician. Here is where the book deviates a lot. We learn a lot about the Bazhir and their culture that we just didn't get to see before. Of course, there are visits from old friends like Myles of Olau and Prince Jonathan for those of us who get nostalgic about the past books and characters. There's also a ton of new characters to keep things fresh and tie into the overall plot arc of Jonathan becoming King. One of the coolest new things was having Jon become the Bazhir's new...I dunno how to describe it...soul keeper? It's called the Voice of the Tribes and that man has the most power of all the Bazhir. It was a good move on Jon's part to keeping the Bazhir as a part of Tortall, because some of the tribes have been whispering about revolution.

Pierce was a master of the love triangle before it was even a fad in YA fiction. Prince Jon is Alanna's best friend. They've grown up together and were each other's first loves. But there's the complication of him being the prince, and the people of Tortall might not accept the Lady Knight as the queen...particularly with the scandal of them living together as squire and knight for 4 years before anyone else knew she was a girl... Plus Jon has a kind of a diva side. Not unexpected from a crown prince, but still annoying as hell. He has the audacity to just expect Alanna to be his queen without argument and without consideration of her own life goals...a-hole to the extreme. Then there is George, our lively and witty King of Thieves. It seems like things would never work out between them...I mean, Alanna is sworn to protect the realm from criminals and George is the King of crime in her own palace-city. But there is just something so sweet about them together...you can tell George loves her, and is even willing to wait as long as it takes for Alanna to chose him. I really don't know who I want to win her hand...I'm usually a sucker for first loves. The guy she falls in love with in the beginning of book one is the one I want the heroine to end up with...but in this case I'm not sure. Maybe a King of Thieves can overthrow an actual King in my heart and Alanna's.

I give The Woman Who Rides Like A Man 4 out of 5 Keys!! The thing I love about not only this book, but about all of Tamora Pierce's fantasy books is that they stand the test of time. Look at the Alanna series...it was first published in the 1980's...an entirely different world than the one that kids today are growing up in. Yet the same things about Alanna that attracted girls in the 80's- her strength, her determination, her wit and sarcasm- are all the same things that draw girls in today. I first read this series when I was about 11 or 12 and they totally blew me away. There's enough mushy girl stuff to keep the romantics entertained, but so much action and intrigue that basically any reader will enjoy it. Tortall is a wonderful, magical, totally kick-ass realm of awesome that everyone needs to visit in their lifetime. I can't get enough of this series and am planning on keeping copies on my Keeper shelf until I can share them with my own kids some day.


  1. I totally agree. Tamora Pierce's book do withstand 'the test of time' :) I first read these books when I was about 12 and ten years later I'm still reading them.

  2. I love Tamora Pierce, I devour all of her books as soon as I can get them. And like you I love that they stand the test of time, I love that they will be just as relevant for my future kids as they were for me. :]