Alanna: The First Adventure
By Tamora Pierce
Published 1983 by Atheneum Books
Alan of Trebond is determined to be the best knight his kingdom has ever seen. But he's also hiding a big secret - he's really Alanna, a girl forbidden from being a knight. Can she work her way up the ranks and prove her worth without being discovered?
All right, guys. Here it is. The moment I've been dreading. The moment when I admit probably my most egregious crime against librarianhood: this is the first Tamora Pierce book I've ever read. And I've only just read it now, at nearly age 30 and 30 years after it was published. I KNOW, OKAY. It pains me to admit this, but I feel like I'm a better person for doing so. Rest assured, dear readers, that this will not be the last Tamora Pierce I read.
By the time I got around to reading a lot of the fantasy I missed as an older child and teenager, Pierce's books didn't really sound that exciting to me. Yes, I knew Pierce had a rabid and large fanbase. But it took her winning the Edwards Award and my participation in the Hub Reading Challenge for me to finally pick up one of her books. I am so glad I did, even if I should have done so long before now.
I find myself hard-pressed to explain what it is about this book that I enjoyed so much and what I think makes it good. I feel like it's a deceptively simple story, both in terms of plot and in terms of its telling. The trope of disguising one's identity to attain the life one truly wants is an old and well-trodden one, but there is something about Pierce's handling of it that makes it readable and delightful.
Perhaps it is Alanna herself. She is stubborn - well, maybe headstrong is a more polite way of putting it. She is instantly likeable and, though I'm not sure we get a truly in-depth portrait of her here in book one, I definitely want to spend more time with her and learn more about her in subsequent books.
Perhaps it is Pierce's writing - lots of dialogue and action, short chapters, a short book overall; all elements of a page-turning book. And yet, despite its simplicity, I never felt like the book was lacking. I never thought to myself that Pierce done a disservice to the story in order to maintain a low page count and a quick read. I only wished it to be longer because I was enjoying it so much.
Whatever it is that Pierce has bewitched me with, I'm certainly glad for it. I will be devouring her entire catalog of books as soon as possible.