Growing up in Tortall
– in which I return to one of my favorite childhood authors –
When I became a sixth grader and first stepped into my middle school, a wondrous thing happened. I discovered that the squat, red-bricked building with square-maze corridors contained its very own library. So. Many. Books.
Eventually, I noticed several titles by an author whose name I have been mispronouncing as Tamora Pierce right up until two weeks ago. (It’s Tamora, by the way.)
Should I get one? It was a tug of war between the part of me that judged a book by its cover (right), and the part that judged it by the title. Alanna: The First Adventure didn’t sound nearly dramatic enough. But…there was a picture of a horse and a glowy main character there too.
Picking that book up might have been the best reading decision I’ve ever made. It took me into the fantasy lands of Tortall and marked the beginning of over a decade of my hopeless (and happy) obsession with the fantasy genre.
The Song of the Lioness quartet: (1983-1988) Alanna has only one schooling option: an etiquette academy where she can learn all the finer details of how to be a noble lady (which I have to assume includes at least one 400-level course in silverware placement). But she knows that the noble life is not the one she was meant to lead. So in a decidedly unladylike move, she switches places with her pansy brother to take his spot as a royal page, a role that will hopefully lead her to becoming a Knight of the Realm—a position that is strictly male-only.
I went on to read everything I could find by Tamora Pierce:
The Circle of Magic (1997-1999) series strikes an all-together different chord: it’s like four Harry Potters brought together to learn to control their budding powers and to help save their world from destruction (but they don’t know that yet). Tris must learn to control the lightning that strikes whenever she’s angry (which is about 90% of the time). Daja, the outcast from a trader culture, has an uncanny connection to all things metal. The streetrat, Briar, can coax a plant to do most anything. And Sandry is noble-born who can sew very well. They’ll have lots of adventures–if they manage to stop bickering.
The Immortals series (1992-1996): Daine’s magic connection to animals has done its best to drive her insane. It’s not until the mage Numair realizes she has wild magic that she learns it’s not a question of madness but control. Her studies take her far beyond anything she could imagine–to the capital of Tortall, to the far off lands of Carthak, and to the realms of the gods. Conspiracy, danger and her loyal horse Cloud are her constant companions.
And then later…
Protector of the Small: (1999-2002) Years have passed since Alanna made her daring try at becoming a Lady Knight. A law has been passed to let girls to try for knighthood, and Keladry of Mindelan is the first to give it a go. But a changed law doesn’t make for changed attitudes. Kel make enemies, friends, and history.
Tricksters series: (2003-2004) Fastforward. Aly is Alanna’s 16-year-old daughter. When her parents forbid her to be a Tortallan spy, she has to wonder whether her life will be hum-drum boring. Not so. Aly’s captured by pirates and sold into slavery in the Copper Isles where her skills in subterfuge come in handy in keeping her alive.
Back to the present:
It’s September 2011, and I have just finished reading the two latest Tamora Pierce books, Terrier (2006) and Bloodhound (2009). It was a risk I had been reluctant to take; I didn’t want Tortall to lose the magic it had held for me for over a decade. I didn’t want to read and decide I’d outgrown the world I’ve lived in for years as a child. But I took it anyway.
My verdict? You can read about it here in my review of Terrier and Bloodhound.
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