The books that I will always reach for when I am in need of an old friend are any written by Tamora Pierce. (I even have two of her series on audio book!) I was first introduced to this lovely author when I was 13 and browsing in the library. I devoured the “Song of the Lioness” series and mourned when I finished them.
For the uninitiated, Tamora Pierces’ novels are YA fantasy fiction for
young girls. They take place in Tortall, a land that is civilized, enlightened and Mediaeval all in one. There are knights, ladies, princes, maidens and magic. There is also a seriously awesome polytheistic religion that I frequently wished (wish) were real.
The heroine of the stories is Alanna, a young girl, who at the tender age of11 years old, decides that rather than learning to be a Lady, she will become a Knight. She’s not allowed though, and thus decides trade places with her twin brother Thom and disguise herself as a boy called ‘Alan’, and earn her shield when she is 18.
It is not easy. She is smaller and weaker than the boys, and has to content with an underlying fear that girls just aren’t strong enough, or brave enough to be knights. Rather than be defeated though, she decides to be better than all the boys. And she does it. Again, it is not easy. She works harder than them. She wakes up earlier and goes to bed later, practicing and building up her strength. She constantly pushes herself, even after she has proven herself.
One of the most shocking parts of the series for 13-year-old me, was that she has SEX. OH
MY GOD. She is given birth control when she gets her first period (a charm necklace. If only…). She actually loses her virginity with her best friend Jon, the only one to know her secret, and they engage in a sneaky relationship that benefits from having an adjoining door between their rooms. Her nerves before doing it aren’t even about being thought of as a “slut” or any other negative implicat
ions of having unmarried sex, as one might expect in a YA novel, but rather the realistic fear that it might result in the end of a friendship. It doesn’t.
Jon isn’t her only relationship either! She has three healthy, loving relationships, even as she explicitly states that she does not want to marry – what a thing to learn! Relationships can be about more than marriage!
When she eventually does marry, it is entirely her own choice (she asks him), and to a man who she has known and loved and been best friends with for most of her life, and who she knows respects every aspect of her. Crazy. I always cry when they finally decide to get hitched to each other.
God what a sexual awakening those books were. They were first I read that portrayed sex honestly, as something that people could do if they were not married and did not plan to get married. That portrayed it as something fun, and enjoyable for BOTH parties.
I just realised how impossible it is for me to write a short(er) and yet in-depth post about these books. They simply mean too much to me. I’ll cut off now. I’ll probably write about them again.
I really admire Tamora Pierce for creating such a good character. Tortall has many heroines, all of whom I feel similarly about. Alanna just holds a special place for being the first.
If I have children, they will definitely be reading these books. Even if they are boys: they deserve to learn that girls are awesome too.