Alanna: The First Adventure

Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce I used to be obsessed with these books. When I was younger I was equally fascinated by medieval history and magic, and Alanna was the perfect heroine.

The story is fairly simple, and has been repeated many times in many different ways by many different authors since: for me, Piece was the first to tell it. Alanna does not want to be a "Lady". She doesn't want to go to a convent and learn embroidery and other "lady-like" subjects. She wants to be a warrior, and fight, and defeat evil! So she takes her twin brother's place as a page (he wants to be a knight as much as she wants to be a Lady) and begins her journey to knighthood. She's keeping her identity - and femininity - secret, though a few do discover it, and along the way learns a lot about being true to herself, while also becoming a totally kick-ass heroine.

There's a bit of magic involved (actually, a lot) but nothing is easy for her, even the things she's naturally good at have to be worked on and improved - which is, of course, another lesson for the young who will have no idea they are learning as they are reading. I certainly didn't at the age of nine, I just thought it was a cool story. It's only now that I realise how much these books influenced me to be myself when it would have been easier to not be.

Reading this over ten years since the first time, I can't help but notice the simplicity of the writing. This doesn't make it bad, and maybe it's just a phase I'm going through but I'm really craving beautiful prose, where the writing is as important as the story. The book is written for a young audience, of course, and I never thought there was anything wrong with it when I was young. To be honest, there isn't anything wrong with it, I'm just being picky. In her later books the writing flows a little more easily as Pierce settles into her style, it's just here that it's a little stilted. That's the only reason I've given it four stars instead of five.

I said before that Alanna was the perfect heroine to me as a young child - well, she still is. If I ever have a daughter I will give her these books, if only because they show that just because you don't fit into the stereotype of being a "girl" (liking dolls and makeup and other designated "girly" things) does not mean that you are not one.