Once again, let’s talk about that cover. It’s way too dark, for a start. Alanna is still not in armour, even though she becomes the king’s champion. The horse is still the wrong colour. The red glow makes sense, I guess, but… yeh. This really doesn’t work for me. The title basically works; it’s better than In the Hand of the Goddess at least.
And again: junior section of the library, people! Weird!
At last, a proper quest. I was beginning to wonder whether it would happen! We had two books of boarding school, one book of… I dunno how to characterise the third, actually. And then here, a quest. Not your average quest, of course, but a quest nonetheless. In fact, a road trip! Alanna learns of a Fabulous Jewel and decides that hey, this is exactly the sort of thing she should be adventuring after as a knight errant. Along the way she meets – and Takes Up With – one of the few men genuinely her match in fighting, Liam; plus a refugee princess, who she eventually matches with Jonathan to take that little problem off her hands; and when she gets back to her home, she helps to bring down a plot against Jonathan (now king), with the back-from-the-dead Roger at its heart. Plus she finally ends up with George, who’s been holding out so faithfully.
The quest angle was interesting, not least because it takes up less than half of the book. The Dominion Jewel does end up being fundamental to Jonathan keeping ahold of his kingdom (literally), but the trip is definitely more about the travel than the destination. Alanna’s relationship with Liam is perhaps the most fascinating of all her loves. For a start, Liam is terrified by her use of magic – so she knows right from the start that they won’t be a long term item (although I am mighty, might sad that he died). His knowing more about some aspects of fighting lends an interesting tone to their relationship, since it takes on a teacher/student aspect – it’s not overdone, though. Her frustration at his occasional desire to protect her comes through well, and not usually as an ‘I’m the strong man’ attitude but more of a ‘I love you so I want to protect you’ thing – which is quite reasonable, from his perspective, if frustrating from hers. And then finally we get female relationships, with Alanna relating to the princess Thayet and her bodyguard, Buri, on a fairly level playing field: Thayet actually outranks her, as no woman she has interacted with daily ever has; Buri is pretty nearly as good a warrior as her. And they manage to have occasionally spiky but generally very good friendships, based on mutual trust and equality. Hooray!
Oh, and she gets the jewel, by nearly defeating and then amusing an elemental being. Awesome. Off home then.
Alanna’s relationships with Jonathan and George have complicated, as they ought. Jonathan is willing to be chivalrous, but really knows that their marriage wouldn’t be awesome; plus, he’s smitten by Thayet, as Alanna was planning. Plus, being married to your Champion would just be awkward. George keeps on being the faithful one, and eventually that pays off. Awww.
Clothes play a rather interesting role in this story. I like that Alanna has a complicated relationship with clothes. It makes sense. I love that she is allowed to mash somewhat-feminine clothes with her status as a knight when she is presented to the court. Liam’s poor reaction to her being in a dress, because that doesn’t suit the box into which he wants to place her, is a wonderful exploration of identity and expectations. The resolute determination of showing that she can be feminine – and like feminine things – and that this does not detract from her status or fighting abilities is magnificent.
There are some things that are rushed, here, as they have been throughout. Alanna’s relationship with her brother Thom, in particular, is never fleshed out enough for my liking; Thom as a character is too distant and unrealised. We just have to accept that he’s become proud because of his power, but that he gets tricked by Delia into resurrecting Roger.. and then he finally gives in and is willing to accept help from his former teacher whom he previously seemed to despise. It’s all a bit of a mess, really, which is unfortunate because I think the twins’ relationship could have been a much more intriguing aspect of the story than it was allowed to be.
I am unconvinced by the conclusion, too. I am happy enough with her ending up with George, although it is just oh-so-convenient that he’s noble now (not to mention pardoned), so there’s no issue of her marrying below herself. However, the idea that she would immediately agree to have children after a year or two of marriage struck rather an off note for me. She’s just made him amend his suggestion that she settle down to going off roaming with him, and now she’s confirmed to near-immediate motherhood? Given the rather pointed bits about her knowing nothing about children – although she does learn – this just seems out of character. And it was an unfortunate way to end, too; I don’t really see why there had to be a discussion of children along with the discussion of marriage.
Overall, I am pleased to have read this quartet; I read the last three in about 24 hours. I may at some stage seek out the next set of books set in Tortall, but I’m (really) in no hurry. Pierce was doing some interesting things, here, but I’m too old and well-read to be as completely overwhelmed as I might have been in my teens. Still, I’d have no hesitation in shoving them down anyone else’s throat.
You can get Lioness Rampant from Fishpond.
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