note from Melissa: I love Kymm's reviews of stuff from ages ago. I've actually never read Alanna, despite meaning to for...well...ever. Now I REALLY want to read it. And I think reviews of old stuff really help a new crowd discover it!
When I picked this one out of the library, I did so because it was the first of a series that looked interesting, not realizing that Tamora Pierce is She of Many Many Series and if I end up enjoying this one I'll just be chasing my tail desperately trying to quiet my OCD by reading them all, but then she'll just keep writing new ones and I'll never enver finish!
That said, I plucked this one out of the pile and started on it anyway.
Alanna and her twin, Thom, are being sent off to precicely the opposite futures that they long for, Thom to become a knight and Alanna to go to the convent to become a lady (where they also teach sorcery, which is what Thom wants, not to beome a lady), so they decide to switch places. Alanna chops off her hair and pretends to be Alan, and Thom just goes off to the convent because they train boys, too. How fortunate that he doesn't have to pretend to be a girl.
When Alanna, now pretending to be Alan, gets to the palace, she makes friends with the prince and an enemy of a bully, she works hard because she is stubborn, she uses the magic that she fears to save a life, she learns to fight, she binds her chest, she is liked and admired by all, though she neither knows nor understands why. Exciting things happen, and more exciting things will happen in three more books as Alanna grows up to become the warrior maiden that she wants to be.
This is an enjoyable book and I look forward to reading the other three, but it is clearly the work of a very young writer. I was surprised when I did the math and found that Tamora Pierce was almost 30 when this was published, but it says on Wikipedia that she wrote these books in college, which makes perfect sense, because this is the character that you write when you are in high school.
Alanna has red hair and purple eyes (how many purple-eyed heroines did I come up with as a child? As many as Anne Shirley did, I'm sure), she has an amazing amount of magical ability, more than anyone else, she beats up the bully even though she is smaller and a girl, she is admired by everyone, everyone who is nice likes her the best, but because she doesn't know it, she's not stuck up, and nobody is jealous that she gets special attention because they see that she is special and deserves it. This is the person that we all pretended to be in grade school, the special, magical heroine worknig against great odds. With purple eyes.