Author: Tamora PierceEdition: PaperbackRating: 4 Stars
This is one of those books I missed out on as a kid but still get recommended quite a bit. I caved and bought the whole quartet so that I don't have to wait long between books and I'm rather pleased with my decision.
Alanna The First Adventure follows our titular character as she swaps places with her twin brother and pretends to be a boy in order to retrieve training to be a Knight. She keeps her secret close and through her extra hard work and friendships she starts her journey into being one of the best Knight's at the castle.
Alanna herself was a great character. She's young and bold, yet she also learns fast and is good at pretending to be a boy. She can take what's thrown at her- not because she's strong enough, necessarily, but because she has a net of people who will help catch her and because she's willing to change to meet a challenge. In fact, her elasticity and work ethic are two of her strongest characterization points, which were a fresh change from a lot of what I've been reading. As for the other characters, I hate to lump them all into one place, but they were all lacking that third dimension that she has. They're all still growing, as she is, but since they have less page time (it is a very short book) they don't get to be as fully developed. It's not frustrating, though, because with three other books to get through I'm pretty sure everyone will be fleshed out by the end. The plot itself was interesting, but not my main interest, as Alanna herself was so captivating. It's a very basic "set-up" story, where we get an idea of what's to come and who the villain might be. While it mostly follows Alanna in her lessons, the ending was a nice surprise and something I really enjoyed.
More importantly than all that, however, may be how feminist this book is. It deals with a girl living in a man's world and succeeding. It deals with issues for a young audience that other books at this age don't tackle- like getting your period for the first time. And it's dealt with well! Her reaction is honest- she's frightened for a number of reasons- and the way she reaches out to friends is also honest. This is a book that teaches innumerable lessons to young girls and I heartily recommend everyone give it a try, especially children.
While it's a book for younger readers, the main character and feminist themes made it an incredibly good read for me and I would recommend it to everyone, especially since it only takes a day or so to get through.