Alanna #3: The Woman who Rides like a Man

Alanna 1; Alanna 2.

SPOILERS

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Soooo… let’s talk about that cover then. Can you spell Twilight? SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. There is so much more to this story than a love triangle! And WHAT the heck is she WEARING?? Is there a Valley Girl in the desert that’s not mentioned? She’s a KNIGHT. She could at least be wearing a burnoose, given she spends a large amount of the story in the desert. But nooooo they have to make it look like this almost modern. You can pretty much ignore the sword in her hand, even! Urgh. Also, I wouldn’t go for either of these fellas.

Still, at least this is a better title than the second one. “Woman who rides like a man” is both directly relevant to the story and intriguing.

Also, found in the junior section. Really makes me think that the staff haven’t read it.

Alanna is now a knight, and like she has been saying for two novels, is off to seek whatever knights errant seek. Warmth in winter and some distance from both Jonathan and George, in this case, plus getting away from people who disapprove of boobs behind armour. She ends up in the desert that she visited in the first book, and stays with a tribe of the Bazhir. She accidentally becomes the tribe’s shaman because she kills the existing one; oops. She also becomes teacher to three young Gifted teens, one of whom dies, and she challenges notions like girls-can’t-d0-stuff. Meanwhile, she  breaks up with Jonathan when he gets very high and mighty about her marrying him, is adopted by Sir Myles as his heir – so now she gets to have her own title because after all her brother inherits Trebond; and takes up with George, at last.

Again, a lot happens in a short novel. I think this one felt better paced overall – perhaps because now Alanna is a knight, which was the whole point of the first two, things can slow down a bit and events can happen kind of for their own sake, rather than to move Alanna along to that particular end. This also covers a shorter period of time, but still felt like there were important things going on.

Again, Alanna grows and changes. In particular her attitude towards being female comes out in fits and starts, and this really makes sense. After all, she’s hidden being a woman for so long – and put all of the potential trappings of femininity out of her mind for so long, disregarding them in her quest to be a knight and definitely seeing them as the lesser of her options – that it makes sense it would be hard to change. I think it does make sense that it might eventually start to be appealing, or at least provoke her curiosity; especially when her lover makes rude comments about not being feminine enough.

There are some problematic things in this novel – I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the characterisation of the Bazhir. However, Alanna’s stay with them does twist some conventions nicely; her very presence challenges some of their notions, and many of them show willing to change when shown that the alternative isn’t disastrous (mostly). I like that there is an insight into the women of the tribe; after all, Alanna is in that sometimes awkward, sometimes useful liminal space of female-knight: she inhabits both masculine and feminine sides. So she learns the magic and the fighting… and then she also learns weaving, and values that, seeing that the women have as much to offer as the men. I love that she is not actually very good at weaving when she starts.

I am intrigued again by the… I hesitate to use the word ‘casual’, because it makes her sound like she just sleeps with anyone, so let’s go with ‘straightforward’ attitude shown towards sex. She’s broken up with Jonathan; George again makes a move; she takes up with him. It’s more than pragmatic – after all George declared his love back in the other book; it’s not rebound sex; and she’s not hung up on the morality of it. This is definitely a different way of portraying such things from your average faux-medieval story.

I think this is my favourite of the four books. Alanna seems to get to be most herself with the Bazhir; she faces challenges and makes decisions like a knight would and should. And she faces the consequences squarely, occasionally with remorse as required. She’s growing into someone to genuinely admire.

You can get The Woman who Rides like a Man at Fishpond.

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