Tag Archives: tamora pierce

Galactic Suburbia 86

In which we feed the feedback, unpack the Hugo packet, and put Jane Austen on a bank note. You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

What Caught Our Eye:

Twitter… the abuse of Caroline Criado-Perez

Chief Commissioner – Have a look at yourself

Mary Beard Will Tell Your Mum How You Behave on Twitter


We appreciate every email sent to us, even if we very rarely do this thing we are doing, and read them out. But this time we did that thing!

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Eternal Flame, Greg Egan; the rest of the Alanna books, Tamora Pierce; Pacific Rim

Tansy: Hugo packet reading – short story, novelette, novella, also Splendid Chaps Seven/Religion, & new social justice pop culture Aussie blog No Award.

Alisa: Hugo Packet including novels

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Alanna 4: Lioness Rampant

Alanna 1Alanna 2; Alanna 3.



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.

Alanna #3: The Woman who Rides like a Man

Alanna 1; Alanna 2.



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.

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…



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.

Galactic Suburbia 85

In which we talk about gender stuff in publishing and gaming, Alex votes in the Hugos and Alisa’s thesis starts coming together. A good week! You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

Caught Our Eye

Sexism in genre publishing: A Publisher’s Perspective

JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith – An Open Letter to Writers & Would Be Writers

The Mary Sue & gaming culture: What we aren’t talking about when we talk about inclusion and representation, and what we are

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Hugo reading (novellas and novelettes)

Alisa: Publishing and Reading as Dissent: Resistance, Literary Tourism and Arsenal Press, Casey Stepaniuk (The Word Hoard Vol 1, Issue 1)

Tansy: Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen; Red Sonja #1 by Gail Simone; Much Ado About Nothing!

The Galactic Suburbia Road Trip – we have fun over at the SF Signal Mind Meld!

Tansy’s review of The Other Half of the Sky is up at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Kaaron Warren won a Shirley Jackson for “Sky”!

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Alanna: the first adventure

I was given this book by a student teacher placed with me some time ago, a major Margo Lanagan and Isobelle Carmody fan who was scandalised that I hadn’t read any Tamora Pierce. And I finally got around to reading it, hurrah! (She also gave me a pencilcase that she made herself and decorated with important history dates – how cool is that?? – and a copy of A Woman in Berlin which I haven’t read yet but I WILL, I SWEAR.)


So, I should say upfront that I don’t think I loved this book as much as M wanted me to, and I think that is entirely the fault of my age and cynicism. Oh, I fully intend to get my hands on the rest of the series at some stage because I do want to find out what Pierce does with Alanna, especially once her secret is out… but it’s unlikely to be a Great Classic in my heart.

That said… some spoilers follow, because I want to dissect a couple of bits.

So, that said… I liked Alanna, although the 30-cough-something in me is intensely amused and eye-roll-y at a ten year old having the nous to set up such a trick on her father. It’s interesting that Pierce made the father neither evil nor dead (the dead bit is left to Mum) but so intensely disinterested and absent that this trick could work; I would have thought this would have a rather larger impact on the child than it appears to. Anyway; it’s set up as ‘special child with special talents’ right from the start, so that’s not something I can complain about. And I DO genuinely like Alanna. Much as I deplore the violence I admire the pluckiness of wanting to beat your own enemies; I like that she speaks in a forthright manner, and her determination to be as good as the boys – and that she fully intends to reveal her secret when she’s passed her tests and go on to have adventures. I really, really liked that Pierce addressed the issue of menstruation and Alanna’s annoyance at having biology forced on her (also, the bit where she realises her chest is jiggling? Priceless). I am sad that she has the “but I’m not good enough because I’m a giiirrrlll!” tantrum, but I do like that it’s the male companion who tells her not to be so ridiculous.

I forgot to mention the premise of the story. Alanna wants to be a knight. Her twin brother doesn’t; he wants to be a sorcerer. Conveniently, boys are taught magic at the convent to which Alanna is to be sent to learn How To Be A Lady; and Thom, the brother, can forge Dad’s handwriting. So, switch-a-roo and Alan(na) is off to the big city to learn how to cudgel opponents… I mean how to be a knight. Essentially this is a boarding school story but rather than being nerds or wizards or international students, this is Knight School. There’s all the sorts of things you would expect – fitting in, working hard, dealing with bullies, annoying/scary/awesome teachers – with added swords.

There are some nicely subversive elements here, against the traditional Learning to be a Knight story, especially in the form of Sir Myles. (It must be said I was a little afeared that Myles was going to end up having a sexual attraction to young Alan, when he suddenly asked Alanna to accompany him to his home castle. Lucky it was only inspired by a dream! Haha!) The undercutting of chivalry, and the seeming contradiction of what is expected of a knight – honour vs beating opponents up, etc, isn’t fully fleshed out and may simply pass a young reader by – but I appreciated it. Especially in contrast to the “yeh, beat up the bully! That’s the solution!” rhetoric, which kinda revolted me.

Things that made me very eye-roll-y: Alanna is so fed up and tired after two days that she decides to leave (but of course changes her mind…) and THEN, a few months later, has enough time to go out and do EXTRA training with George so she can beat up the bully? Really? So she magically found time for travel AND for the lessons?

Also: George. I’m as much a fan of your King of the Thieves as the next person who read David Eddings as an impressionable teen, but… a king in their late teens? Named George? With such a highly developed sense of morality? I don’t buy it.

Also also: “the Gift.” The reality of this magical ability just wasn’t developed enough early on – either what it is or why Alanna hates it so much – for me to be particularly impressed when she pulls out the stunt of making Jonathan recover. I am intrigued by the fact it appears, at least in this use of it, to call directly on the gods – gods who don’t appear to have much impact on everyday life, as far as I can see, in terms of worship or morality.

Things that concern me: I worry that Alanna and Jonathan will end up having a Thing. That will annoy me. Or Alanna and George. So the prince and the king of thieves will end up fighting for her hand. That would be BAD.

All of this aside, I really will look up at least the next book, to see where Pierce takes Alanna. My version of this first book has the opening chapter of the second, as a teaser, and… yeh, I am intrigued.