Alanna may look like her brother, but where Thom is timid and studies magic, she is reckless and filled with a desire to learn how to wield a bow and sword. When Alanna is to be sent to a convent and Thom to become a knight, the twins take their lives into their own hands. By forging their father’s letters, Alanna becomes Alan, a page in training to be a knight, and her brother goes to learn sorcery. Training to be a knight would have been difficult without hiding her true sex; with that secret on her shoulders, it becomes almost impossible. But Alanna isn’t one to quit, and being a knight is all she’s ever wanted.
The first book in a quartet, this novel is a wonderful introduction into a richly drawn world of knights and magic. Alanna is a noble and stubborn girl who will sweep readers along on her adventures and will have you rooting for her every step of the way. While there is much fighting in her story, the lack of gory descriptions and clean language will make this story entertaining for teenagers and younger readers alike.
- When Alanna begins to grow, she has to bind her breasts to keep them hidden. “Watching the glass closely, she bounced up and down. Her chest moved. It wasn’t much, but she had definitely jiggled. Over the winter her breasts had gotten larger.”
- Alanna doesn’t know what is happening when she has her first period. “She got out of bed–and gasped in horror to find her things and sheets smeared with blood.” A woman healer asks her, “Did no one ever tell you of a woman’s monthly cycle? The fertility cycle? . . . It happens to us all. We can’t bear children until it begins.”
- Alana is given a pregnancy charm, which she claims she’ll never use. The healing woman asks, ” ‘Do you know what happens when you lie with a man?’ Alanna blushed. ‘Of course.’ “
- When Alanna visits George, “he wasn’t dressed–he always slept bare.” When Alanna reveals that she is a girl, George orders her to turn around while he gets dressed. She does, but she says “That’s silly. I’ve seen you naked before.”
- Alanna and Jon fight beings of power who are nearly immortal. They expose her secret by vanishing her clothes. “Her clothes were gone. All she wore was her belt and scabbard . . . She looked at Jonathan. Her friend was openly staring . . . [Jon] pulled off his tunic and handed it to her.”
- George hints that he killed the last Rogue and took his place. “Who knows when some young buck will do for me what I did for the king before me, just six months back.”
- When the bully Ralon tries to force Alanna to swim, she “rammed herself into Ralon’s stomach. The older boy yelped as he tumbled into the pool . . . When Ralon finally surfaced, he was half blind and three-quarters drowned.”
- A boy bullies Alanna mercilessly, and as a result they get into several fights. “She hit low and hard. Ralon doubled over, clutching his lower belly.” During another fight, “She bloodied Ralon’s nose. Ralon broke her arm.” When Alanna finally beats the bully, “She slammed a fist up and under, into his stomach again, knocking the breath from his body. Swiftly she broke his nose with the other hand. Ralon collapsed, crying like a small child. ‘Never touch me again. If you do, I swear–I swear by Mithros and the Goddess–I’ll kill you,’ ” Alanna tells him.
- In an attempt to protect Alan, her friends “beat Ralon thoroughly.” When Ralon doesn’t stop the bullying, “Gary held Ralon. Raoul administered the beating, his face impossible to read.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- George gives Alanna a tankard of ale, and he and his (adult) friends often drink at his inn.
- A bully tells Alanna, “If I say you’re the goatherd’s son, you say, ‘Yes, Lord Ralon.’ ” Alanna responds, “I’d as soon kiss a pig! Is that what you’ve been doing–kissing pigs?”
- Ralon calls Alanna “dunghill trash.”
- Some are born with The Gift, which can manifest in different ways. Some are great healers, while others use their Gift to control the weather or to fight.
- Alanna threatens to make a man see things that aren’t there, unless he helps her become a knight. She also admits that she has made people see things in the past. “Coram turned pale. The afternoon the tarts were discovered missing, Cook started to see large, hungry lions following him around the kitchens… When the twins’ godmother came to Trebond to snare Lord Alan as her next husband, she had fled after only three days, claiming the castle was haunted.”
- Magic is used to send a fever to the palace, in an attempt on the prince’s life. “The fever continued, drying Jon’s lips till they cracked and bled.”
- Alanna uses her magic to heal. “She reached inside herself. It was there: a purple, tiny ball of fire that grew as she nudged it with her mind. Her nose started to itch, as it always did when she first called on her magic.”
- Alanna asks the Goddess for aid, and the Goddess tells her to call her friend back from edge of death. Alanna has to go through the Black God to get to her friend. “She was twisting in a black, writhing well . . . Shrieks and cackling and the screams of doomed souls sounded all around her. She was on the edge, between the world of the living and the Underworld . . . A huge, dark shadow shaped like a hooded man came between them . . . This must be the Dark God, the Master of all death.”
- Alanna and Jon fight powerful beings who say, “We are gods and the children of gods . . . We were here before your Old Ones, and we laughed when their cities fell.”
- There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Black God and the Crooked God. Some gods guide mortals, while most never interfere directly.
- Alanna discusses whether or not she should use her magical Gift. She says, “If a person has power–something that can be used for good or evil, either way–should they use it?” Her mentor tells her, “Magic isn’t good or evil by itself. I believe you should only use it when you are absolutely certain your cause is just.”
by Morgan Lynn