Alanna #2: In the Hand of the Goddess

A while back, I read Alanna: the First Adventure. I said at that time that I would read the rest of the quartet at some point, but I wasn’t in a screaming hurry. Then the other day on Galactic Suburbia, Tansy announced that she was commencing a re-read. Well, I couldn’t let her re-read beat my initial read, could I? What if she said spoilery things?? So, I went out and borrowed the next three. And read them…

SPOILERS

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So. The second book. First off, let’s talk about this cover. It’s from the 2011 re-release, and it is less than awesome. Her horse’s name is Moonlight, fercryinoutloud. At least she’s got a sword and is dressed in squire-ish clothes. Secondly, let’s talk about where I found it: in the junior section of the library. Not the YA section; the junior section. I can maybe see the first book fitting there, but not the entire series. I found that weird before I read them, and then as I read the casual attitude towards sex – the sex isn’t explicit, in the slightest, but it is very clearly present – I was even more astonished. Also, the killing of people with swords, which again isn’t the most graphic violence but still, not sure you’d want a ten year old reading it. Thirdly, the title… well, it makes sense in some ways, but it doesn’t inspire me and in fact makes me roll my eyes. I would not pick this up based on the title. (Of course I would already have been put off by the cover of this particular edition.)

Anyway. The story picks up with Alanna now being squire to Jonathan, the prince, who knows that she’s actually a girl. The story essentially covers her progression towards becoming a knight. It covers three or four years in 240 pages. Sometimes you blink and it’s a year later. Some writers carry that off with aplomb – mostly I’m thinking of Ursula le Guin here I think – but I’m not entirely convinced of it by Pierce.  Over that time, Alanna acquires a cat, Faithful (many of the names that appear in this series I am entirely unimpressed by); a lover, in Jonathan; and of course becomes a knight. And, in a very rapid turn of events, she kills her nemesis, Duke Roger. That particular bit happened so fast my head was spinning.

Alanna grows up, as she needs to, and generally that’s well done. She frets about things fairly convincingly. It was good to see that Pierce allowed Alanna’s friends to accept her being a girl relatively easily; that she had proved herself enough that it was straightforward for them to still see her as a knight.

Battle scenes aren’t dwelt on, which I appreciated. The aftermath, though, is not ignored; Alanna throws up after her first real skirmish, the patching up of soldiers is shown in as detail as the battle itself – which isn’t glorified – and when Alanna isn’t able to fight, she goes off and helps the healers. I like how practical Alanna is; I like that the reality is shown, although of course Alanna is Super Gifted in every area necessary (which sometimes does get a bit wearing).

Jonathan is a bit boring. I was surprised when he and Alanna fell into bed together relatively easily; later, there is a suggestion that this diminishes Alanna’s virtue in some eyes, but she doesn’t worry about it at this stage. I can’t help wondering about the power issues of a prince sleeping with a vassal – although of course this has always happened in history – but also the rather weird situation of a knight sleeping with his squire… although of course this may well have happened in history….

As a rogue, George of course is more interesting. I’m a bit impatient with love triangles though.

Really, this book gets through things extraordinarily fast.

You can get In the Hand of the Goddess from Fishpond.

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