Friday, May 20, 2016

Series Review: The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Published 1983 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (Published 1984 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (Published 1986 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Published: September 1988 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads) 

Series Synopsis: Noblewoman Alanna of Trebond, disguised as the boy "Alan," exchanges places with her twin brother Thom, to go to the royal palace in the city of Corus to train for knighthood, while Thom studies magic. Throughout the four novels Alanna befriends George, the king of the thieves; the scholar Sir Myles of Olau; senior students Gareth (Gary) of Naxen, Raoul of Goldenlake, and Prince Jonathan of Conté; Princess Thayet of Sarain; Liam Ironarm, a martial-arts champion; and Buriram (Buri) Tourakom, Thayet's bodyguard. Her principal rivals are classmate Ralon of Malven, and Jonathan's kinsman Duke Roger, who becomes the chief antagonist in the final book. 

By reason of her double identity, small size, inherent magic, and impatience, Alanna is often shown questioning her own character; but resolves these questions in the third book, in which she becomes an honorary member of the 'Bazhir' (a Bedouin-like ethnicity), through gaining unique acceptance because of her gender. In the final volume, she becomes King's Champion to Jonathan and Baroness of the coastal estate Pirate's Swoop.

This is such a beloved series by fans of YA fantasy. I can't believe I never read it as a kid but with the popularity of it around the blogosphere I knew I needed to take the time to read it, So when my OTSP Secret Sister in the last round bought me copies of the series it was the perfect opportunity to read it during my high fantasy month as my Rock My TBR Challenge.

I had high expectations for this series because it is so popular. And while I wasn't completely blown away by it in the way I had hoped, I really enjoyed it. On the whole I think The Song of the Lioness Quartet is a classic sword and sorcery high fantasy series. It's not a super high stakes adventure but it has a great combination of magic and action.Throughout the series, it slowly brings in more and more magic and fight scenes as the series goes on to really build to a thrilling conclusion. But along the way there were lots of moments that kept you reading and interested. For one thing, I really liked the magical system and world-building here. It was the perfect kind of show not tell as you learned about the world without being overwhelmed with detail. It was interesting and engaging.

My one main criticism though is with the pacing of the series. Each individual book was really well-paced but it didn't feel like much of a cohesive series until the very end. Even when I had finished the third book it left me wondering how it would all end, what the ultimate conflict was, and who the "big bad" of the series was. All of that wasn't really revealed until the second half of the last book. Now I get wanting to wait to reveal everything until you're ready but it left me wondering too much. I couldn't tell if this was just a book about Alanna's adventures or if there was an ultimate conclusion. And because of that, the stakes didn't feel as high as they could of and often are in these kinds of novels. It didn't feel like one of those epic end of the world kind of stories like I was hoping.

The first book in the series, Alanna The First Adventure, was probably my least favorite in the series. If you read this blog regularly then you know I always have a rough time with first books. They often contain too much exposition for me and this book was no exception. There was some great moments of action and some fantastic scenes with the magic, but on the whole those were few and far between. But the first book did do a great job with characterization. I loved Alanna and was invested in her story to continue which is one of the main reasons I kept reading.

The second book in the series, In the Hand of the Goddess, by contrast may have been my favorite. It took everything I loved with the first book and gave me more of that. It had more magic, more mystery, and much more action. It even kind of resolved some of the conflicts from the first book which was really interesting. But this was about the time where I started to question what the big picture stuff was because of that resolution. But the great characters and characterization continued, especially with new characters like Faithful.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, the third book in the series, felt a lot like your typical third book in a series. Often what I see a lot in trilogies is that with the third book the author will expand the world and show you a different part of the universe. That's exactly what happened here as we were taken to the desert to live with the Bazhir people. It was an interesting turn for the series and I liked exploring it, but it felt a little bit like a diversion before the finale.

Lioness Rampant however redeemed so much of that. The last book in the series was a fantastic conclusion and could be my favorite in the series too. One thing that I loved about is the way that it took everything full circle. It harkened back to some great moments of the the first book especially which was fantastic, plus by the end there you did have the high stakes adventure that I was missing in some of the other series.

On the whole, The Song of the Lioness quartet was a fantastic young adult fantasy. It has great characters that you will fall for quickly and a great combination of magic and adventure. As a cohesive story the pacing is a little problematic but each individual book is engaging and interesting. It was a good read.

I give The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you have not yet read this series then check it out. I would absolutely recommend it to fans of the genre. If you haven't read it as a kid then take the opportunity to read it now. It's reminiscent about a lot of our favorite modern fantasies and you will love Alanna a tough but feminine female hero.


  1. This series (and her Immortals quartet) is what got me into reading! Definitely agree on the first book, but loved the second and third! If you haven't yet, check out the Immortals books as well as the Trickster duology!

    Austine @ NovelKnight

  2. Great review! I have seen this around but never picked it up -- I can understand what you're saying about the pacing and cohesiveness, which is really hard for a series, but sounds like a good things, too! Great series review!!

  3. I must confess I thought it'd be a series of adventures without an overall main ARC so to speak, so was very pleasantly surprised when it happened to have one! ;)

  4. I am so glad you did this review as someone who read them as an adult because several of my friends have blogged about them, but had read them as preteens, and told me that they didn't know if I would enjoy reading them for the first time as an adult. I might try them in the future if I ever have a short tbr. :)