Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blast from the Past: Alanna the First Adventure

…in which we talk about YA books published prior to the 1990’s and their relevancy to today’s teens.

This post’s topic: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Book 1 of the Song of the Lioness Quartet)
Pages: 231
Original Publication Date: September 1983 (original cover pictured)

Summary: "From now on I'm Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I'll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl Thom heads to the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, in on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land."

—Cover flap summary of the Simon Pulse edition 2005

My thoughts:

This book was one of my favorites growing up – it has knights, magic, thieves, and everything that makes it a perfect medieval-style fantasy. I wanted to live in Tortall. I wanted to be Alanna, who was friends with both the future king and the King of Thieves. There were times when I begged my mother to let me dye my hair bronze-red, just so I could be more like the character I adored reading about. (Unfortunately, my mother’s response to such requests was, “Not a chance.”) And with the ever-growing popularity of strong female heroines, I thought that starting off this feature with Alanna: The First Adventure would be perfect, because here you go: one of the first strong female heroines I was ever introduced to.

All teens can learn a lesson from Alanna. She doesn’t let anything stop her from following her dream of becoming a knight – even the fact that she is a girl and therefore forbidden from that profession. What I love most about it is how real Tamora Pierce made it seem. Alanna doesn’t just skate by – she faces real challenges in trying to hide her identity and has to work twice as hard in order to become as strong as the males. She also has to face bullying and has to make a decision about whether to fight back and get in trouble or take the abuse. There are times when it seems just a tad too easy for her, but overall, Pierce does an excellent job in making the obstacles realistic.

If you haven’t read this book, do. It is written for the younger side of the young adult spectrum, but it really is a fast, fun read. Besides, strong female heroines NEVER go out of style.

Until later,