When I think about female authors who wrote some of the most amazing fantasy worlds, the first two names to pop into my head are JK Rowling and Tamora Pierce. Rowling is, as we all know, one of five self-made female author billionaires and actually was the first (read it FIRST) author to ever become a billionaire. Pierce, I think got the short end of the stick and here is (at least in my mind) why: Pierce’s books feature female main characters that are amazing role models. Now don’t get me wrong, Hermione, Luna, and Ginny (just to name a few) are absolutely spectacular role models. The difference here is that they take the back seat to the male protagonist. I recently read a list of 40 books every woman should read on Hello Giggles. These are books by women, and while I’m not bashing the list, I was stunned to see no mention of Tamora Pierce. They also have another list of 25 books every girl should read before she turns 25 that is complete with Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. Absolutely no mention of Tamora Pierce.
Okay, I realize I am ranting on about how I feel Pierce us being served a huge injustice here, but I just can’t help it. It is an injustice! We live in a time where women as a whole are stepping up and saying “Wait now, we can do this too.” and one of the possibly best heroine authors in fantasy is being neglected. We want little girls to realize they can do anything and are equal to boys and we are looking for good role models in every avenue that culture provides, but so few people know of Pierce’s books.
It’s a conspiracy I tell you!
Let me take a second from my rant to talk about Pierce’s book First Test.
First Test is the first book in the Protector of the Small Quartet. This, in turn, is the third quartet (so 9th book) in Pierce’s Tortall books. The first two are called The Song of the Lioness Quartet and The Immortals Quartet. If you have never read any of them, I do highly suggest starting at the beginning. However, you don’t really need to. Pierce does a wonderful job summing up the last eight books throughout this one and she does it in a way that you won’t be confused with the details but you’ll be intrigued enough to go pick up the previous books.
At the end of the Song of the Lioness Quartet, a decree is made that girls can become knights. Because you know, girls can kick ass and take names too (especially if your name is Alanna). However it is another ten years before any girl actually takes up the new freedom.
That girl is ten year old Keladry of Mindelan. Unfortunately, the training master, Lord Wyldon is not very happy about letting her join. She is accepted under a “probationary” page period (much to her surprise and Alanna’s anger) but decides to take up on it because she wants to be a cool, strong, badass woman like her own mother and Alanna. At ten years old she is already feeling the pressure of a make dominated society telling her she isn’t good enough. And many of the squires try and very hard to make her leave. They write derogatory things on the walls, destroy her property, set up traps, mess with her training equipment, and all together discriminate against her. Slowly though, she is able to win some over to her side and even gain the (grudging) respect of Wyldon himself.
“Girls are fragile, more emotional, easier to frighten. They are not as strong in their arms or shoulders as men. They tire easily. This girl would get any warriors who served with her killed on some dark night.”
Throughout the book we have appearances from old favorites; Jonathan, Raoul, Alanna, Numair, and Daine. Granted, Alanna never really shows up around Kel because she’s been ordered to stay away. The only person missing is George, which really is a shame.
Besides Kel, Wyldon, and the other adults, Pierce weaves another memorable cast of pre-teens and teenagers together in a new generation of Tortallian heroes. Nealan (or Nel) quickly became my favorite. Probably because of his snarky attitude and quick tongue. He is a bit reminiscent of George.
These books are a must read for any person with two X chromosomes. They are amazingly intricate stories that show just what girls can do.
I just love the world Tamora Pierce created in her Tortall books. This was a great continuation in the series, filled with the things you’ve come to expect from Ms. Pierce; strong female leads (that you know are going to be more badass later), a humorous male lead (possible romantic pairing later?), plus sword fighting, an abundance of strong-willed animals, and battles.
Please please please, if you do anything today, pick up one of these books. Then you’ll be wondering too why she isn’t being mentioned on these purportedly “pro-female” lists.
***Edit: I just found this list from Buzzfeed that does talk about Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure.( And it has on Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles