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Song of the Lioness #1

Alanna: The First Adventure

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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 allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is 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.

274 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1983

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About the author

Tamora Pierce

152 books83.3k followers
Hey, folks! I just discovered that apparently I have given some very popular books single-star ratings--except I haven't. How do I know I haven't? Because I haven't read those books at all. So before you go getting all hacked off at me for trashing your favorites, know that I've written GoodReads to find out what's going on.

I return to my regularly scheduled profile:
Though I would love to join groups, I'm going to turn them all down. I just don't have the time to take part, so please don't be offended if I don't join your group or accept an invitation. I'm not snooty--I'm just up to my eyeballs in work and appearances!

Also, don't be alarmed by the number of books I've read. When I get bored, I go through the different lists and rediscover books I've read in the past. It's a very evil way to use up time when I should be doing other things. Obviously, I've read a lot of books in 54 years!

I was born in South Connellsville, PA. My mother wanted to name me "Tamara" but the nurse who filled out my birth certificate misspelled it as "Tamora". When I was 8 my family moved to California, where we lived for 6 years on both sides of the San Francisco peninsula.

I started writing stories in 6th grade. My interest in fantasy and science fiction began when I was introduced to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien and so I started to write the kind of books that I was reading. After my parents divorced, my mother took my sisters and me back to Pennsylvania in 1969. There I went to Albert Gallatin Senior High for 2 years and Uniontown Area Senior High School for my senior year.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I wrote the book that became The Song of the Lioness fantasy quartet. I sold some articles and 2 short stories and wrote reviews for a martial arts movie magazine. At last the first book of the quartet, Alanna: The First Adventure was published by Atheneum Books in 1983.

Tim Liebe, who became my Spouse-Creature, and I lived in New York City with assorted cats and two parakeets from 1982 - 2006. In 2006 we moved to Syracuse, New York, where we live now with assorted cats, a number of squirrels, birds, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and woodchucks visiting our very small yard. As of 2011, I have 27 novels in print, one short story collection, one comic book arc ("White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion") co-written with Tim, and a short story anthology co-editing credit. There's more to come, including a companion book to the Tortall `verse. So stay tuned!

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5 stars
63,755 (50%)
4 stars
40,260 (31%)
3 stars
17,596 (13%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,807 reviews
Profile Image for Natalie.
446 reviews10 followers
June 10, 2008
In retrospect, this is not a perfect novel, or series of novels, but when I think of who I wanted to be when I was ten years old, my answer was always Alanna. (And I still have a crush on George.)
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.2k followers
July 8, 2010
After reading three paranormal/urban fantasy romances in a row, you can only imagine how happy I was to read, not only something different, but something GOOD!

Good is the best description I can give of Alanna. I wouldn't say it was great. It gets pretty close to it, though. Some parts of it seem unrealistic to me. Alanna being so readily accepted by the boys etc. But the story is short, fun, action-packed with magic and mystery and high-adventure.

Alanna it a great character. Stubborn, cheeky, doubtful of herself. The supporting characters, ranging from Prince Jonathan, Sir Myles and King George are all great. Gary, Raoul and Alex are never fully realized but that's only to be expected with such a short book.

It is the rather typical girl-in-boy's clothing story but the writing is rather good and the sense of fun more than makes up for some of the predictability. The end isn't quite the blazing glory that I'd hope for but it wasn't too bad and there's many more books to follow so I can't wait.

Over all a thoroughly enjoyable read and I can't wait to devour the sequels!

Edited to Add:

I just had to mention something, possibly the one thing that really annoyed me! There's this evil character in the book, The king's nephew. He's clearly evil and it's made very obvious to the reader, but despite all of the evidence, the Prince refuses to believe that this person could possibly betray him.

Say what? This isn't the first time I've read something like this in a book and I have to wonder if the author ever imagined what it would be like growing up in court - a system usually known for its lies and betrayal and petty squabbling over power.

Now, I'm sorry, but if I were Queen of the world (think about it - it really wouldn't be such a bad idea. I'm not asking you to vote or anything - just to ponder the possibility) then I'd kind of be cautious if I'd almost died twice and the only person that could possibly have tried to kill me twice was the first person to inherit the throne upon my death. I'd at least take a moment to think about it.

And why trust anyone implicitly? If I were Queen of the World (don't you think that title just SUITS me?) then I'd have categories of people:

Those absolutely trusted without question.
Those I trust mostly but keep an eye on.
Those I'm friendly with but am wary of.
Those I don't trust (people in this category would either be about to die or already dead.)

The titles of Those Absolutely Trusted Without Question will be awarded posthumously after they've completed an act to save my life - losing theirs in the process.

I just find this kind of trusting royal a ridiculous characterization. If you have a significant ruling power, say a kingdom, then despite receiving it by right of birth/might/money, someone is going to try and take it from you. They may be smarter, better looking and more capable then you but it's still your job to ensure they never wrest power from your cold, dead fingers. To do that, you kind of have to use a little more brain power and a little less blind loyalty!

*Breaths a sigh of relief* And I promised myself I'd have a break from ranting! Oh well, maybe the next review will be rant free!
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,576 reviews33.9k followers
August 13, 2016
3.5 stars

Finally read this (*gasp*!) for our classics discussion Friday, 11/27! Our special guest will be the wonderful author Andrea K. Höst, and I'll post a link when it's live.

I enjoyed this very much, but it felt like a first book, with rough transitions and rather unnuanced characterization. But I do like Alanna (and I love George!), so I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Profile Image for Tamara.
684 reviews201 followers
February 25, 2016
Hey, at least I tried.

Shorted version of the full review (The full one felt like an academic paper on why I dont like this book and series so I had to cut some parts. Oh, how easy it is talking about books I dont like. Also fun! ^_^ Be warned, this review contains my thoughts for this book and some minor/big spoilers for rest of the series -I’ve done some reading and research- which are tagged as spoilers and hidden from virgin eyes.)

For myself, and I suspect many people, books we read and love as children acquire blind spots of handwavium from sheer sentiment unless we reread them as adults with a critical, rather than nostalgic, mindset. I’m an adult reading this and I’m not ashamed at reading this and I’m gonna poke fun at it. You like this book? Fine. I’m totally ok with that. So please be ok with me (kinda) poking fun at this one as well. And dont you dare tell me it gets better. Dont you dare. I’m warning you :D


Reason 1: For those who don’t know, the series is about a girl named Alanna who wants to be a knight, so she disguises herself as a boy and switches places with her twin brother. Thus he gets sent to learn how to be a wizard (God, Alanna, why don’t you want to be a wizard?!) and she goes off to learn knightly stuff (BO-RING…Kidding..Kinda. That’s Harry Potter lover in me talking, sorry.) Based on that, I expected the book to be about three things:

1. Binding her boobs (done)

2. Hiding her period (done. Kinda. Once… and then never mentioned again. I’ll rant about this one later)

3. Dealing with the aftermath when she’s found out (I’m super pissed. She deals with nothing. I’ll also rant about this one in a moment)

Look. I like stories about girls disguised as boys. I pretty much read all the good classic gender bender manga out there and watched all the asian dramas about the subject (there are so many) so believe me when I say I know my stuff and because I know my stuff I’m telling you this book sucks at making it believable.

There’s like no tension when it comes to gender bender here. No drama.
Where’s my ½ Prince or Ouran High School Host Club? Where is my Hana Kimi? Where is Coffee Prince which had 20/20 believability score in my eyes? Or Queen Seon Duk (do you know how hard it is to disguise yourself as man in a sageuk?)? Even You're Beautiful and Sungkyunkwan Scandal which ones even though I loved lack some believability handled the subject waaay better.

Let me explain:

** She doesnt get in the water. The other boys tease her….And then...nothing. WTF? Where is my tension and drama from that? Nothing ever really happened while she was keeping the secret and then in later books apperantly she just It is such a letdown!

** Alanna didn't seem to deal with any confusion about her identity neither in this one or the others. Like, (I’ve done some research and looked up the other books as well by reading some stuff etc.) she spent four years (?) living as a man and not once that expressed frustration that she couldn't present as she identified because that wasn't what society expected of her?

Sure, we see the first time she gets her period and thinks she’s been injured because no one explained it to her, but every subsequent time what, she just walks with an armful of bloody linens to the castle laundry room? And she just doesn’t…take off her clothes ever? She’s living with teenage boys! It’s just a concentrated locker room! All of this subterfuge seems a hundred times harder than learning to carry a shield or whatever.

Which brings me to what I hate about this series the most…

Reason 2:

Alanna hits every single Mary Sue trope there is. She the best fighter anywhere and the prince falls in love with her and so does the super-cool Thief King and she's really beautiful and she has a freakin' magical talking/telepathic pet cat with violet eyes. You telling me she isnt Mary Sue-ish? Yeah, right. And my name is not Tamara.

I really like books with female protagonists, but not when they're oh-so-super special that everybody loves them instantly and they succeed at everything. Plus, did I mention she even has purple eyes? I did, didnt I?

I'm not a fan of wish-fulfilment/power fantasies of any kind, male or female, ok? The problem with such stories is there's no tension or drama, if everything goes the protagonist's way and everything happens just as expected.

Here, everything happens off screen. She studies. Secretly. For days or months to get better. And guess what? She does! Do you expect me to buy that when there was no actual build up and she is just gets so awesome at everything by practicing?!

a) Cant believe she gets better at every damn thing when she studies secretly ( Why the hell I sucked at high school maths then? I studied so hard at high school and I stil sucked at logarithm no matter what.)

b) We are told she studies but damn it show it to me woman!! Dont fucking try to excuse her being a master at sword fightg by studying it secretly! Where are her blood, sweat and tears? I wanna see it. I wanns see her struggling. She doesnt struggle ok? She is bullied, we are told she is bullied but because the pacing is too fucking fast I cant even feel sorry for her. What I end up thinking is ‘Maaan, she has it sooo easy’.

Reason 3: I’ve learned recently that this series was originally meant as one book for the adult market but the author divided it into four and made a large amount of cuts to conform to the rules of length and content that YA Literature had in The '80s. And it shows…like from the very first page ‘cause the pacing is so off. The book -specially in the beginning- feels like a part of a spin-off series or a second book in a series instead of the first one. We are immediately thrown into the plot and the characters and cant take a second to get used to the whole thing. You know what happens when an author works under a strict maximum page limit? The pacing gets a bit wonky at times, with months or even years passed over with barely a mention. Can that be an excuse for pacing? Not for me.

Reason 4: The book is ‘supposed’ to deal with gender issues. That’s what I’m told. But didnt get. At all. Maybe it deals with heavy stuff in later boks (but if you excuse me I wont count having sex, having more than one love interest or learning how to dress as a woman as dealing with gender issues.) Maybe it gets better (I doubt it.) But you know what? That’s not an excuse. That’s what hardcore fanboys tell fans who dont want to stick around and watch a very boring and terrible season one of a series they’ve just recently started watching. ‘Hang in there buddy, it’s gonna get better. How dare you give up, you chicken!!!’.

Fuck off dude, that’s not an excuse.

The producers & writers should have handled the whole process better ok? The fact that it gets beter later doesnt erase all the previous moments I had to hang in there wondering why the fuck I’m still watching that boring shit. BSG had a pretty awesome first season so it can be done. First season can be cool. First book can be cool. Therefore, I dont have to stick around when the plot and character development and woldbuilding takes too damn long.

Reason 5: This series it seems is famous for being Feminist Fantasy. I am a girl. And I consider myself a feminist. Kinda. But it seems as I realized recently I dont like feminist fantasy cause I had the same problems I had with Graceling in this one. Like UGH. This shit is so unrealistic. For me, for this one book what the the main character does all the time is whine and bitch about how unfair it is to be born as a girl.

People look at feminism in different ways. Some think it’s man-hating, some think it’s bashing woman who dont agree with them or not ‘independent’ or ‘modern’ enough like them, some think it’s doing whatever you wanna do in the name of being independent and strong, some think it’s having the mentality of ‘if a man do it, so I can’. The things we judge man for for example, some feminist act like they can get away with it and not be judged in the sake of being ‘independent’ and ‘modern’ and ‘girl power’. If you are not already guessed, I’m talking about double standard here.

So yeah there is a part of feminism I dont like. I dont like when some people act like we dont need man or they dont need anybody or who the hell needs marriage and people who marry and have a kid and choose being a stay home mom for their kids are stupid. I dont like judgy people. You dont know what other people’s going through. You dont know how they were raised. Stop judging people.

I dont like Allana. Because she seems like one of those judgy people.

She doesnt like her gender. Fine. There were/are times I didnt/dont like my gender either. Why the hell I have to be at home before dark ‘cause it’s dangerous out there? Why the hell I have to get used to man whistling when I walk and I have to accept that they are complementing me and it’s ok? Why the fuck I have to have my period and be in pain (both physically and mentally) when the guys has it so easy?

I can see someone of you nodding. But guys dont have it easy, ok? They have their own problems as well. I know that. But sometimes in some days it’s really hard to realize that.

We all have those moments. We all move on. I’m totally ok with characters having those moments as well. What I’m not ok with this much gender hating. I’m suuuuure she embraces her femininity later but excuse me while I dont stick around for that. Excuse me while I dont excuse her behaviour because she’s a pre-teen and teenager. Nobody hates their gender this much. Nobody. Not even in their early years. I dont fucking care how unfair the world is. It’s unfair for everybody. You cant just make your character this kind of a special snowflake and then expect me to buy she has mentality of a 5 years old child!!

Reason 6: I’m all for strong friendship but are fucking kidding me? Two people find out she’s girl and they are totally fine with that? They are ok with her lying? Where the hell all these great mentality is coming from?

Dont start with me by saying : ‘…but Tamara its get better in later books' cause I’ve done enough research to know it doesnt. I know that Alanna revealing her gender doesn't have enough immediate consequence even in sequels. I personallly think it's a bad idea for writers to write around drama rather than tackle it head on. Avoiding that fallout totally kills the momentum of the series.

Reason 7: Let’s talk about the villian. Let’s talk about villian being given away too damn early. I sure luv when that happens.

(Can you smell my sarcasm from there?)

Reason 8: Tropes present in this book include: SO MANY.

** Whomever likes Alanna is good; whomever do not like Alanna is bad. Luv the whole black and white mentality this book has. (No I dont.)

** Only the Chosen May Wield - Lightning aka the sword. Alana has such powerful supporters as you can see. How the hell these ordinary female characters do get supported by all these powerful beings is beyond me.

** Deus ex Machina – Oh look Alanna suddenly has a magical ability I'd never heard about before to save the day.

(Why? Shhh, dont ask those questions. 10 seasons of Supernatural and I’m stil not used to this shit )

Let’s throw here a flashback scene to show how she learned it or just…go with it. Cause you know, she’s our little special snowflake. She was chosen. She was blessed. By the Goddess herself. Havent heard that one before. WOW. Look how amazed I am. Look. Look.

Reason 9: Birth control is a necklace? Not fair.

There is a magic charm to prevent pregnancy and I’m sure it’s always commonly available. Dont you just love fantasy?

Alanna panics when her first period begins, gets a magical amulet and then her peridod never gets mentioned again. UGH. Dont do it if you arent going to handle the whole issue properly. For someone who freaked out so much she’s handling the whole issue so well!


When I had my first period I remember freaking out soooo much. I was at the right age but stil I freaked out like crazy cause I was alone a home and the first periods are always tricky. You have it, then you dont for like 2 months and then you have it again. Plus, it took time getting used to whole period drama. But Allana is like totally fine. She’s like so perfect guys. Even her period is perfect. So drama free. Why cant my period ever be drama free?

Reason 10: Lastly, huge spoiler for the end of the series but she ends up with; I done enough research and I think guys who tail girls during some of their adventures and say that they're destined for each other are super creep, ok? I past my Edward the stalker stage. I dont like stalkers anymore.

Overall; I’m so glad this book is over.

It felt like a wasted idea that didnt fully capitalize on its potential. There's something there that COULD have been good, but the author didn't quite know what to do with it, or how to bring it out. That's why I dont like this book. Now if you excuse me I'm going to go out and get's myself an ice-cream 'cause nothing can cure a disappointing book like ice-cream :)

Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
540 reviews124 followers
April 23, 2020
A great classic that mostly holds up today.

Alanna's journey is a lot of fun. She's brave, thoughtful, and eager to learn. She works really hard, studies, and earns her way into the knighthood, all of which I found really refreshing.

There were some uneven parts that all felt to me like the book had to be cut down from a longer version. The beginning felt rushed, with a lack of description, as though trying to get the reader to the good part (Alanna learning to be a knight, which WAS good!). Then the ending felt really rushed too, .

But it was all a good time.

In particular, I liked all the knights and their silly "defend your honor" chivalry stuff that was terrible and macho but made for really great reading.

Onto book 2!
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 57 books14.9k followers
September 10, 2014
Not really a review, more a memory:

I can pinpoint the origin of these books with the most clarity. I remember being handed the first one by a librarian, and begging my parents to buy it for me when I had to turn it back in. I remember then begging the librarian to tell me the date the next one was expected to release (that was the only way to find out, in those days). I remember the look and location of each new book, in the bookstore, when I went to pick it up. I still have all my first editions. Tamora Pierce is the only author I have ever expressly tried to meet, and she is the only author who's book I stood in line to have signed. This series actually did change my life.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,225 reviews2,054 followers
March 10, 2018
This is the first book in a series written for the younger end of the young adult readership, but which is still of interest to readers of any age.

Alanna: The First Adventure is a fantasy set in a place where magic is common and knights are trained in the ways of chivalry. Alanna is fighting against the constraints of being female in such a society and having dressed herself as a boy she sets off to be trained as a page with the hope of a knighthood in the future.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. As a young person's book it is fairly short in length and simple in its structure and interactions. It was a very pleasant, light, easy read and I would recommend it to younger readers starting out in the world of fantasy and also to young at heart readers who feel like a breath of fresh air in their reading matter.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews829 followers
April 8, 2020
“Think on who you are fighting, if only because one day you must meet your match.”

We are so used to feisty, kick-ass heroines that we often forget that there must have been this first one (yes, I know that’s Eowyn, thank you). And among the crowds of Arya Starks prowling the pages of virtually every contemporary fantasy novel, Alanna stands out as the pioneer(ess) and a pathbreaker.

If Alanna was a real woman, today she would have been 37 years old. The book was first published in 1983, when it was fashionable to give your protagonists red hair AND purple eyes a lot of the things we take for granted now, were not so obvious at all, and many cliches were not so cliche (good point, Shaitarn!). She is a result of the “write the book you want to read” approach. Ms Pierce was forced to fill a gap in the literature, and write about fearless, bold, and powerful girls, whom (as she says) although she really wanted to, she could never become. I found it fascinating that Ms Pierce modelled Alanna on her younger sister Kimberly and even more fascinating that her first audience were her pupils from a house for teenage girls. The Head decided that some parts of the novel were inappropriate for young girls (it was a house with really strict rules) so Ms Pierce had to tell Alanna’s story in a version adapted for teenagers. (I really wish I could be there to hear this!)

I suppose, there was no need to adapt the first adventure as the novel is definitely more middle-grade than YA. It is a cozy and fast flowing comfort read. You don’t even notice when you are 50 pages into the story. The world is of the magically flavoured Middle Ages variety, but it is a comfort world too. So if a thief asks you for a meeting it is not aimed at robbing you blindly (among other nasty things) but you will get lemonade and gain a friend instead (in some respects this reminded me of Riryia a bit).

“Alanna left the class thinking, something she seldom did seriously.”

Alanna is a classic girl-in-boy’s-clothing tale of a girl who wanted to be a knight so much, he swapped places in her brother and went to the “special school” (another favourite trope!) where everybody thinks her to be one Lord Alan of Trebon.

She is a wonderfully constructed heroine. Alanna has both a gift for killing and for healing, she is a girl with boyish dreams and thus she is made of delicious contradictions that make her so interesting and alive. She is also beautifully flawed: when she comes to the court she is a bit lazy and spoilt (the tantrum she throws when it transpires that becoming a knight actually involves a lot of work is simply delicious). Interestingly, she does not have the empathy (typically bestowed upon female protagonists). Feeling and thinking are not her fortes; instead, she is the embodiment of action. She has everything that Disgraceling has lost and Harry never had.

And although Alanna lacks discipline or intellectual depths, she is smart and hard-working. Nothing comes cheap but she is prepared to pay the full price, no discount .

I will be definitely continuing the series that is bound to be more YA in the coming instalments. The First Adventure is just a compacted prelude into the setting that introduces the world and the main characters, both good and bad. Despite several “jumps” in time, the main current of the story flows rather smoothly. Please be warned that the “special school” is not the main thing here and so if you are excited about the academy, reign your hogwarts hopes in and try Inda or the Blood Song instead.

I have been a bit apprehensive and I didn’t want to indulge in hate-reading. (The thing is: classics, unless read early, can be a terrible hit and miss. And I seem to be missing far too often.) Luckily, Alanna was a pleasant surprise and my fears proved to be unfounded.

Try it if you are in a mood for something a bit vintage and a bit naive.

2. In the Hand of the Goddess ★☆☆☆☆
3. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man ★☆☆☆☆
4. Lioness Rampant ★☆☆☆☆
Profile Image for Rose.
417 reviews589 followers
September 5, 2016

I'm so mad I didn't start this series earlier!!! It's so similar to Harry Potter in the way that it's just a feel good book with interesting characters and the best friendships + MAGIC.

...anyway, on to book two!


my longest and most terrible reading slump is FINALLY OVER.

[of course, right when school's starting -.- but oh well]


Profile Image for Gavin Hetherington.
673 reviews5,637 followers
January 12, 2021
I read this one for my Patron-exclusive readalong for the Song of a Lioness series and I was so pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this. I had never heard of it before and when I heard it's from the 80s, I was so worried that it would be dated and not hold up today. I am so happy that it's a book I would whole-heartedly recommend!

Alanna of Trebond has her heart set on becoming a knight, while her brother wants to learn magic, so they decide to switch places so Alanna could go to the castle of King Roald and start training as a knight. Having to hide her true identity while also proving herself, Alanna faces so many challenges and obstacles.

I loved a lot of the themes and messages this book conveys, that girls can do what boys do if given a chance. I can see this being such a hugely influential read for so many young people and it's a book I would absolutely give to my niece to teach her that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Seeing Alanna's journey and struggle felt so real inside a truly fantasy world. It's a coming of age, as she grows up and deals with real issues too.

I loved the 'swords and sorcery' aspect of this, again an element I wasn't really expecting. There are some interesting developments that happen to keep the story exciting, such as a mystical sickness and a finale in the ruins of the Black City. There are villains to deal with and while I did find some of it a little rushed, I was still fully immersed in this world.

I look forward to continuing this series and I'm grateful to everyone who yelled at me to begin this.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,202 reviews2,584 followers
January 17, 2020
*** 4.44 ***

I wish I had read this book when I was in my preteens and early teens, because if I had, it would have definitely been a favorite! Getting up there in age, as I am, I still found this Fantasy fairy tale very pleasant and engaging. The tale of tweens who switch places is a well worn trope, as well as the one about the girl who wants to be respected as the boys are, but the author does a great job keeping the themes fresh and by creating likable characters, keeps the reader invested in the story all the way.

I would strongly recommend this book to the young Fantasy readers out there! It is a short and very easy flowing read, leaving you rooting for the good vs evil! If I had kids, I would be reading it to them 👍!

Now I wish you all happy reading and may you always find what you need in the pages of a good book♥️!
Profile Image for Donna.
1,050 reviews51 followers
December 19, 2008
I probably would have liked this better if I'd read it for the first time when I was younger. The heroine is a fairly typical spunky fantasy female, she's a little too perfect and good at everything.

The story is okay but not especially memorable. It takes place over several years, though the passage of time seems a little muddy and the only real sense of it is that sometimes Alanna will mention her age. It's written in third person, and for the most part we're only in Alanna's head. But there are occasionally parts where we're reading about what another character is thinking, those moments are jarring and don't always seem to serve much purpose.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,814 followers
March 1, 2021
This was such a huge surprise. I was not expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did and I definitely will say that it holds up considering that it was originally written in the 80s

Alanna: The First Adventure is the first book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet and focuses on Alanna's journey in "switching roles" with her brother so that she can become a knight. There's a lot of assumptions that can be made about a fantasy book that was originally made in the 80's; however, Pierce was definitely far beyond her time in both plot and character development. There are great relationships that Alanna develops with her the other boys that are training to become knights. Even in the light of some absentee parents, Alanna is able to form great bonds with other adults. I did appreciate that Pierce allowed Alanna to be flawed. This is especially noticeable when Alanna makes it to castle and believes that her previous training is going to make her excel in everything. Of course, things go a little differently and she has to put in time and energy like all the other participants.

There were a few aspects that I did not expect Peirce to cover related to puberty. Naturally, Alanna is going to change developmentally as she ages; however, I expected Pierce to ignore that. And surprisingly she didn't. There were great conversations related to physical changes that were probably monumental for readers when this was first released. Pierce definitely took this opportunity to carve the way for women in fantasy in a time when it was predominately dominated by men. While I do think that the presentation of gender is outdated, Peirce did a hell of a job for the time in which she released this book. I've heard that her books only get better with time. This was definitely a great read and I look forward to reading more from her.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,241 reviews385 followers
January 4, 2023
Just as wonderful as I remember. Alanna and that wonderful pack of boys all came rushing back to me, more than a decade since I last read this; the definition of memorable characters. And the pacing! I'd forgotten how briskly this book MOVES.

I think I first discovered Tamora Pierce in high school, thanks to an upperclassman friend who took me under her wing. Lots of feelings right now. It's been so long since I visited Tortall.

I still want to read that 732-page adult version of the quartet, Tammy!
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,422 followers
August 8, 2019
This the first instalment in the Song of the Lioness quartet.

There are few fantasy adventures I embark on that can be classified as fun and light-hearted yet sometimes that is exactly what I need. Pierce delivers the most charming of story-lines and all of her books, that I have so far read, are all formulated with solely the reader's enjoyment in mind. This book did feel suited to a younger audience, with the straight-forward narrative and the hasty instalment of the reader into the world, but also delivered all of the playfulness, light-hearted humour, and general fun reading experience that I was anticipating. Grimdark is where my heart lays by Pierce is where i return to when I need a pure escapist, pleasure of a read.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews997 followers
June 1, 2012
Okay, deep breaths all around. Are you ready for another one of those retro reviews in which I regale you with nostalgic views of my childhood reading and rhapsodize on another heroine who contributed to making me who I am today? If you're not (and I totally would not blame you in the slightest--I know how I can go on about these things), you should probably just swish on by, cause Alanna is sort of the mother of them all when it comes to characters who own a little piece of my soul. She's right smack dab there in the company of Harry, Aerin, Meg, and Dicey. As I think about those girls and the effect they initially had (and continue to have) on me, I'm back in that familiar circle of awe. What would I do without them? Alanna got me through being 13, and years later I think about her on a regular basis. I realize so much of your connection to characters and their stories has to do with the age at which you as reader make their acquaintance. And, truthfully, I'm not at all offended if you come to the Song of the Lioness quartet later in life and don't find yourself as fully bowled over as I was (though I will likely nudge you in the direction of finishing the series just to see because they're short, what can it hurt, plus the characters grow up, the books get better and better, and really no one should miss that ending . . . ). But all fangirling aside, I will say that it is impossible to overstate how hard I fell for this series and that imagining my life without them is not only distasteful but unfathomable.

Faced with being unwillingly separated and sent away to the palace and the convent respectively, twins Thom and Alanna of Trebond take matters into their own hands. Born out of Alanna's determination, the twins decide to switch places. Thom will go to the convent to train as a sorcerer. Alanna will masquerade as Thom's twin "Alan" and train to be a knight. When she's won her shield and proved her worth to king and court, she will reveal her true self and make her way as a knight-errant in search of adventure. It all seems so easy initially. But, of course, the unusual course she chooses reaches into every aspect of Alanna's life and alters it. Because, her obvious deception aside, she has also been gifted with certain abilities that she fears, abilities that could ruin her chances at the life she wants if they come to light at an inopportune moment. It is therefore with a certain reluctance that Alanna makes friends among her fellow pages at the palace and the denizens of the capital city of Corus. Going it alone feels like the safest course. But Alanna soon learns that she will need what friendships she can cobble together if she is to embrace all of who she is and survive the swirling danger lurking in the bowels of the castle.
"That is my decision. We need not discuss it," said the man at the desk. He was already looking at a book. His two children left the room, closing the door behind them.

"He doesn't want us around," the boy muttered. "He doesn't care what we want."

"We know that," was the girl's answer. "He doesn't care about anything, except his books and scrolls."

The boy hit the wall. "I don't want to be a knight! I want to be a great sorcerer! I want to slay demons and walk with the gods--"

"D'you think I want to be a lady?" his sister asked. "'Walk slowly, Alanna,'" she said primly. "'Sit still, Alanna. Shoulders back, Alanna.' As if that's all I can do with myself!" She paced the floor. "There has to be another way."

That first page still makes my stomach all jumpy. And basically those of you who love girls in disguise tales can sign up here. Alanna was one of my very first experiences with such a story line, and the danger and audacity and excitement got to me something fierce. She captured my loyalty and affection in one fell swoop. Because she knew what she wanted, and she was going to get it if it killed her. But along with that dedication and, yes, ruthlessness, came incredible loyalty, the voracious desire to learn, and a great capacity for love and friendship. Far from perfect, however, Alanna screws up. Royally. She says the wrong thing, she stumbles over her doubts and fears, and she occasionally doesn't see what's right before her eyes. But she's so vibrant and hell bent on being the first female knight in more than a century, and she always, always owns up to her mistakes and rectifies them. Happily, she is surrounded by a killer cast of mischievous pages, loyal retainers, wise women, gallant knights, dubious dukes, one noble prince, one arch nemesis, and one steal-your-heart-and-never-return it thief. And it's these secondary characters who provide such wonderful fodder and foils for our would-be knight. Because of them, the humor and the grand coexist in top-notch harmony. Returning to Tortall is like returning home. And Alanna? She still feels so real to me, it's as though I could reach out and grab her arm. When she grimly deals with her changing body, I feel her frustration. When she awakes from countless nightmares of the obstacles and responsibilities awaiting her, I gulp along with her and wipe the sweat off my brow. And nothing, but nothing, will keep me from reading her story to my daughter when she's old enough. Because Alanna is one of those girls she will need to know. Who will remind her that it's okay to be different, it's okay to rail and rage at life, that she can hold in her hands the dreams closest to her heart, that she is strong, too.
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
May 30, 2014
I still can't believe that I made it through my entire adolescence without ever reading a single Tamora Pierce book. I was aware of the books, obviously, but I never bothered to pick them up. This was mostly due to my childhood belief that once I found a book I really liked, there was no reason to read anything else - this is why I read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series multiple times in elementary school, but never bothered to seek out similar series or even any other books by the author. In fact, I remember not being interested in Harry Potter until my best friend in sixth grade gave me the first book for my birthday, essentially forcing me to read it and find out that I loved it. I only wish someone had done this with the Alanna books as well, but better late than never.

Alanna of Trebond is eleven years old at the beginning of the book, and she and her twin brother, Thom, are about to be sent away from home to start their formal education. Thom will be sent to the capital city to train as a knight, and Alanna to a convent. Because Alanan is a girl in a fantasy story, she's obviously more interested in swordfighting and rejects all things girly, but luckily Thom doesn't particularly want to be a knight, either. The twins switch places: Alanna renames herself Alan and goes to the capital to be a page, and Thom goes off to the convent (which also takes boys, but teaches them magic? I don't know; honestly we're kind of thrown right into the story without a whole lot of set-up, but whatever). Alanna: The First Adventure actually covers the first two years of Alanna's training as a page, and ends right when she's preparing to graduate to squire. The plot has to move pretty quickly, since we have to cover two years in roughly two hundred pages, but the essential characters and future plot arcs are properly set up. Alanna acquires a wide sphere of friends and allies, and the most important ones are Prince Jonathan, who is also training as a squire; and George, the king of the thieves. Pretty sure Alanna is going to make out with both of them at some point in the series, and I'm looking forward to this immensely. Also we have an evil sorcerer, who's so blatantly The Bad Guy that I kind of hope he turns out to be good by the end of the series. But then again, this is a book geared towards children, so he's probably evil.

I have to admit that the writing wasn't as good as I thought it would be. It's sort of awkward and jerky when it should flow, and the story moves so fast that we don't get the chance to linger on anything. As I mentioned, the reader is thrown into the plot so quickly that it's a little disconcerting, and the breakneck pace of the story means that the minor characters, like any of the squires who aren't the prince, don't have enough time to get fully fleshed out. Also the climactic final battle comes far out of left field, with a haunted city in the desert being introduced by the characters about ten pages before they get there. But, as other reviewers have pointed out, this book was written in the pre-Harry Potter days, when publishers didn't trust kids to remain interested in a book for longer than two hundred pages. It's not a perfect introduction to the world or the characters, but I didn't even mind, because I was having too much fun reading about Alanna, while also getting angrier and angrier that no one sat me down and made me read these books when I was a kid.

I don't know how she did it, but Tamora Pierce seems to be almost supernaturally tuned into what little girls want their heroines to be. Alanna has red hair and purple eyes, her horse is a palomino named Moonlight, she's good at swordfighting, she can do magic...by the time she acquired a sword with a magic jewel on the handle, I started wondering if ten-year-old Madeline went back in time, Terminator-style, and ghost-wrote this book. Because seriously, if you polled a hundred little girls and asked them what kind of book they would want to read, Alanna: The First Adventure would cover everything on their list. It doesn't matter if you think Alanna is a Mary Sue who is good at everything (and if so, go sit in the corner and think about what you've done), that is the point. Little girls need heroines who can do everything, be anything, and have supportive friends and guides along the way. Tamora Pierce understands what her audience needs to read about, and I just wish I had read this series when I was supposed to.
Profile Image for Angela.
46 reviews9 followers
August 24, 2016
Being constantly told how some heroine was a "great role model for girls" or "sets a good example" or is "such a strong female character" as a 10-year old was worse than eating Brussels sprouts. I would have rather eaten glue than read this book.

So the normal thing everyone says here, "I'd have liked this more as a kid," really does not apply. But at 27, after hearing my twenties-something friends wax nostalgic, I figured I was being grossly unfair, and that I'd finally get around to reading it.

I feel bad, because I'm gonna have to tell them I don't like Their Favorite Thing and they're gonna give me the sad-eye, but it's not a very good book. I reaaaaally wanted to like it, but:

Alanna doesn’t really have a personality. There’s nothing to her except that:

1) She likes to fight.
2) She doesn’t like being small.
3) She wants to be as good as the boys.
4) She’s a redhead, which I guess in the 80’s counts as a personality trait.

She doesn’t have a sense of wonder at seeing the wider world, or loneliness at being away from home. That her best friend spouts anti-royal sentiments and runs organized crime is somehow a non-issue. There’s no joy or enthusiasm or ruthlessness or resourcefulness or humor or compassion or cleverness or anything. She’s not a Mary Sue, she’s just boring.

Actually, none of the characters have much internal motivation. Jonathan is good and prince-like. Myles is kind and mentor-y. The other teenagers are just... there. Most what they do is because magic tells them to, guiding them on rails as the plot requires. Maude helps Alanna because of a magical vision. George befriends Alanna because... MAGIC. Sir Myles leads Alanna to the ruins because... MAGIC DREAM. Alanna loathes Duke Roger because of ... mystical feeeelings. magic magic magic. Which, when we actually do see a magical battle, is flashing colored lights smashing against other flashing colored lights.

In the interest of fairness, the things that bothered other reviewers, though, don't bother me. She gets a deep discount on buying a horse from a rich friend? Everyone else get horses from their rich dads. She's super-skilled by the end of the book? She's being given the best martial education in the entire kingdom and works non-stop. The prince refuses to be suspicious of Duke Roger? Not surprising, if Jonathan sees Roger the way Alanna sees Sir Myles. Time passes quickly? Good, because I want to get to actual adventuring quickly, not read about school the whole time.

The Black City? Cool. An Ancient-Evil-Awakened-in-the-Sands? Cool. The generic good guys and vanilla medieval fantasyland? Don’t care. Everyone says the series gets better, (and Harry Potter famously does, so I’m optimistic about that) but I’d have been better off reading a plot summary and starting with “In the Hand of the Goddess.”
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
December 20, 2010
This series appears to be a childhood favorite of many readers and I think if I were 10 years old I'd be a bigger fan of it as well.

Alanna: The First Adventure is a good book that you would want your small daughter to read and learn from. It is both an entertaining mix of adventure and magic and it teaches all the right lessons of perseverance, patience, hard work, and standing up to adversity. Extra points for writing about periods.

However, to me, an adult reader, this short novel had very little to offer. Although the book kept my attention throughout and the pace of the story was very dynamic, it was hardly mind-blowing or very inventive. My desire to read the sequel did not appear until the very end and only because I really wanted to know how Alanna's relationship with Prince Jonathan would unfold, I thought that story line had a lot of promise.

BUT, the moment I read some reviews of In the Hand of the Goddess that mentioned Alanna's bed-hopping, my desire to continue on with the story completely evaporated. This sort of thing was definitely not something I cared to read about, and definitely not in a children's book.
Profile Image for Norah Una Sumner.
851 reviews447 followers
January 4, 2016
“Alan, you seem to think we won't like you unless you do things just like everyone else. Have you ever thought we might like you because you're different?”

Really enjoyed reading this.The writing is not really my cup of tea but the story was interesting enough for me to continue reading about Alanna and her adventures.As someone who's reading the last one right now,I can definitely say that this is the best one in the series.The characters are funny and normal, there's a lot of healthy friendships, the story is captivating and Alanna is quite an interesting character with unique ideas.In this book she's still growing up and finding out more and more about the world she's living in. The foreshadowing of a love triangle is definitely present here but let's be honest - George can beat Jonathan's royal ass any time.I wish the rest of the series was as good as this book.

Profile Image for Erin.
95 reviews24 followers
October 10, 2008
This is one of those books that will stick with me, literally and metaphorically. I have it with me at college... The whole series and all the ones I have of the spin off series are dear to me. They are wonderful for girls who are growing up. It is one story after another of strong young girls turning into strong young women.
Profile Image for Bahar.
85 reviews38 followers
June 3, 2022
از ۱۲ سالگی به بعد دو سه بار دیگه هم خوندمش، چه قد همیشه دلم میخواست بقیه جلداش رو هم بخونم ولی نتونستم پیداشون کنم:(((
Profile Image for Rose.
94 reviews19 followers
August 21, 2012
I borrowed this book from a friend, and really have nothing good to say about it. I thought that the plot line was overused, and the writing style left a lot to be desired. The story of a girl dressing up as a a boy to prove herself is something we're all familiar with, and sometimes it's done very well and it's a pleasure to read. However, there was nothing fresh or new about this book, or this series. The characters weren't fleshed out and their difficulties-- hiding identity, physical exhaustion, etc-- weren't very surprising. I felt that this book borrowed heavily from the genre of literature surrounding it, and that it didn't even come up with its own thoughts or takes on what it took.

So, if you're taking a long plane trip, this book will keep you from clobbering the person next to you out of boredom. It may also entertain some people, but if you're looking for good fantasy I would beg to point you in the direction of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword or Patricia Briggs' Steal the Dragon. Both of them feature strong female heroines in semi-magical realms, have horses, knights, and combat. However, Patricia Briggs and Robin McKinley are both, in my opinion, better writers, and the characters and plots are much more fleshed out.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,818 followers
February 27, 2011
I read this when my children were still small. After all, it was my responsibility to introduce them to fantasy literature...er, ah,....as well as other literature that is...huh, huh,huh.

Anyway, this is an enjoyable story, you'll of course run into the character types and plot points elsewhere, but that's okay. Character types, become character "types" for a reason. Alan...Alanna is a good character, though a little, trying or even annoying at times. Still, she knows her mind!

This book has a few flaws but none to speak of (as they say). Be sure your "youth" is old enough to read this and has a good reality concept so they can deal with magic abilities, magical training, multiple gods and goddesses and so on. When you think he/she/they are mature enough this is a nice early introduction to fantasy.
Profile Image for Darcey.
930 reviews194 followers
May 25, 2021
i'm literally obsessed with this series!! i flick through and reread my favourite parts sometimes, it's just so powerful and well-written. Alanna is honestly my inspiration in life! wonderful book (and series) :))


original review: Alanna is the brilliant story of a girl who swaps with her brother and goes to the training school for knights, whereas her brother goes to a school for magic. This book was wonderful, in the way that Alanna didn't know about the female body to the way that she defended herself with so much anger when the boys kept trying to make her swim with them. I loved how she was so stubborn and determined and tried harder than everyone else on her mission to become a knight. This was a wonderful book about determination with a touch of first love and romance.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,006 followers
June 20, 2008
Alanna wants to be a warrior, not a lady, so when her father sends her twin brother to court to become a page, she takes his place and changes her name to Alan. Her brother Thom disguises himself her clothes and sneaks off to learn magic (unfortunately we don't get much of his story). This was a favorite when I was 9 or 10; I suspect it wouldn't seem very original to me at this point.
August 18, 2017
Review also @Scaredy Engines End of Line Library

What a pleasant surprise! This book isn’t very long and is obviously aimed at a younger audience but it didn’t disappoint at all as we are introduced to a feisty heroine and an ending that promises greater things to come.

Alanna the MC has to be one of my favourite heroines in children’s literature. But what I like most about her is the fact that she’s flawed as well as strong because that just makes her character all the more realistic and believable. On saying that however, I found the other characters to be very similar to one another without much development in them and with similar personalities. I hope further on there will be more development of Jon’s character because after that ending it’s very obvious his and Alanna’s fates are going to be entwined. I just hope the plot is going to focus on romance too much if there is going to be any.

One flaw I must point out in particular with writing a high fantasy novel this short is it leaves little room for character and world development. Don’t get me wrong there is some kind of world building later on in the book but I felt it could have been made richer and more detailed. I mean this world sounds amazing with its complex religion and different climates that too me weren’t developed enough. Another thing is I would have liked to get to know all the characters a bit more with more time being spent with them and some history about them perhaps… But there are three more books in the series so there’s obviously a lot more to come.

So overall this was a fast, action filled, light fantasy that most of the time lives up to expectation but would have probably been better if it was made a bit longer.
Profile Image for Alissa.
617 reviews85 followers
February 12, 2020
Lovely coming-of-age tale, clearly written for a younger audience, but I'm young at heart :)

I enjoyed it. Well, plot, characters, structure, prose and situations are very simple, easy to follow; there are no surprises, but I expected that and so this book gave me the light entertainment I was looking for and also some reminiscing, I am sure I would have loved this story as a child, when I wouldn't have been able to notice the improbability of Alanna's luck.

The only so and so note was the narrative style, which is over-telling and flat, along with the prose, too plain. Sure enough I remember this is a suitable read for pre-teens, and it's accessible as such, but still. I can't describe the feeling well, but I don't think this part of the book has aged well, kids nowadays are not put off by a little brain exercise. Nor by a little more hardships thrown in the way of the protagonists.

The relationships are very straightforward, there is a clear line between good and evil, and many characters are too friendly to be real-like, anyhow, who cares? It's refreshing to read about good sentiments from time to time.
Profile Image for TL .
1,824 reviews35 followers
January 5, 2018
Monthly buddyread with my good friend Melissa. This was my companion for a "Holy Crap! Its friggin cold!" day (Anyone else want to hibernate till Spring?)

I liked it alright, but didn't "LOVE it." The ideas were nice and the characters were interesting but it just didn't capture my attention fully.

Yes, this is a ya/middle grade book but it felt like some things happened too quickly. A couple times I had to go back and check a passage because the passage of time wasn't very well marked.

Won't be continuing with the series but I don't regret reading it.
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