BOOK REVIEW: Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

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Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Song of the Lioness (Complete)

Alanna the First Adventure: ★★★/5
In the Hand of the Goddess: ★★★/5
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: ★★★.5/5
Lioness Rampant: ★★★/5

Summary Alanna the First Adventure: The first volume tells the story of Alanna’s page years. The book describes how she switches places with her brother and first comes to the palace—disguised as the boy “Alan”–, finds friends and makes enemies. She also learns most of the things she needs to know as a knight. Even though she is only a page, Alanna already has to fight the Sweating Sickness and the powerful Ysandir.

Summary In the Hand of the Goddess: Alanna, the squire of the Crown Prince Jonathan IV of Conté and still disguised as a boy, meets the Great Mother Goddess. From her she learns that she has to face her three greatest fears: the fear of the Chamber of the Ordeal, that of Duke Roger of Conté and the fear of love. But she also has to face another problem: Tusaine is declaring war on Tortall.

Summary The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Finally Alanna has become a knight and removed a great threat to the Tortallan Crown from the land. But the revelation that “Squire Alan” is now indeed “Sir Alanna” isn’t accepted easily by the court. To get away from all the gossip and to find herself again, Alanna and her manservant Coram Smythesson left Corus and traveled through the Great Southern Desert, where they encounter the Bazhir tribe of the Bloody Hawk. There Alanna has to deal with the Bazhir’s customs while teaching three young people the way of a Bazhir shaman.

Summary Lioness Rampant: On trying to save an old friend of Halef Seif’s, Alanna retrieved a map promising the Dominion Jewel which could help Tortall to prosper. Thus, she sets out to find this jewel. On her way she meets the Shang Dragon Liam Ironarm as well as the Sarain Princess Thayet jian Wilima, who both return back to Tortall with her after her quest is complete. But even after she brings the Dominion Jewel home there is still danger for Tortall. Duke Roger of Conté is back from the dead and trying to destroy Tortall.

Review: I decided to do a comprehensive book review of Tamora Pierce’s quartet, The Song of the Lioness, because as she mentions, this quartet started out as a standalone book before she separated it into four separate ones. However, the series itself still reads as one continuous adventure. There is an underlying conflict that hovers over Alanna’s head as the series continues, with each book allowing a smaller conflict to be resolved. Since it felt as though the series was one long book, some books were less interesting than others. Reviewed as a whole, the series is definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for me, but individually some books stood out more than others. My least favorite being The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. The high point of book three was how Alanna truly maintained her independence from the confines of the traditional role of woman. She was shattering the gender norms with grace and confidence. However, the story arch of this book fell a bit flat for me as I continued to anticipate more action, but was greeted with a slow build up.

Comparatively, while I love the world and story that Pierce has the ability to weave through her words, I much prefer her quartet, The Immortals. Set in the same world and years later, it really delves into a much more magical world that I always look for in fantasy books. However, one thing that always remains, is the fantastic growth and character development of the strong female leads as they truly discover their purpose and potential in an unlikely setting. Not only Alanna, but her supporting characters grow alongside her which really pulls you into the world as though it truly exists.

Alanna of Trebond: A strong and determined female lead who is a great role model to any little girl. While she understands her weaknesses, her humbleness keeps her grounded in her successes. She continually shatters expectations and follows the path that is true to her own beliefs. Alanna maintains her honor throughout the entire series and the growth her character makes is one to be awed.

George Cooper: The King of Thieves, despite his title possesses an honor equaling Alanna. I loved their relationship and how George truly accepted Alanna with an unconditional love. He embraced her strong personality and never tried to limit her while providing the support she needed when she felt struggled. This was a respected relationship of equals.

Myles of Olau: I truly loved the father figure Myles became to Alanna. He recognized how special Alanna was and his patience and support was constant. Without a truly compassionate relationship with her birth father, Alanna was able to experience it with Myles.

Jonathan of Conte: I loved Jonathan’s character through the first two books. He was an unlikely humble crown prince. He got down and dirty and never really expected special treatment. However, during book three, the heaviness of the crown began to change him. I struggled alongside him because he backtracked from the person he began as and I hoped for so much more for him. Though he lost his way, he always truly cared for Alanna, though it was apparent that they were in different places and would never truly be able to provide what the other needed.

I think the main thing to take away from The Song of Lioness is the relationships and growth between the characters. There is a little bit of something for everyone–love, passion, greed, friendships, heartbreak, sadness. This fantasy book truly touches upon the different relationships currently and in the future.

BOOK REVIEW: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance
Series: The Grisha Trilogy (Book 2)

Siege and Storm: ★★★★!!!

SUMMARY: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Book 2 did not disappoint! Wow. Siege and Storm was an amazing read. There was so much development in the characters and the story that I found myself immersed in its tangled plot from page one. I finished the book in two days and probably would have finished it in one if I hadn’t forced myself to stop reading it because my copy of Ruin and Rising hadn’t been delivered yet.

Bardugo really has a way with weaving her words so seamlessly that you fall into this pace while reading that just flows. It’s a natural rhythm that allows you to completely concentrate on the story and its characters. Her descriptions are stunning and haunting: the representation of darkness, the struggles and humor of characters, and the rising tension. Throughout the book you find yourself expecting, waiting for this one thing to happen and then BAM when you least expect it, it happens.

I’m sure there are some readers who may find that the middle section of the book was lagging, but I think every scene was essential to building the tension and developing Alina and her struggles as well as the building relationship with the other characters. I really felt her fears and concerns as she’s thrust into a high position that her former self never would have even fathomed. She doesn’t have instant success and it is apparent that she is working toward a goal that seems so far away. So in my opinion, the build up, the preparations, the meetings, all made the situation very real and believable. A+ (Plus, I just wanted to keep reading more and when the pages started dwindling at the end, I got more and more anxious heh)

ALINA: The main character. Her inner turmoil had her questioning almost everything she thought and did. In the first book she was tentative and very unsure of herself, but in book 2 she really came out of her shell and did the best she could even when she knew she wasn’t prepared for it. I loved that her flaws were so apparent; it makes her real, because nobody is perfect.

MAL: Oh Mal, Mal, Mal. I still love him and I totally understand why he acted the way he did. I was heartbroken for him and I have my suspicions about how his role in the story is going to unravel in Book 3, but I’ll keep that to myself because if I’m right, then it’s going to be a major spoiler.

NIKOLAI: I love Nikolai too! I’m a fickle girl. Some part of me wants Alina to end up with Nikolai, but I don’t think it’ll happen. Nikolai is a myriad of personalities and I’m still not sure who he really is, but that’s his appeal. Every dialogue that he was a part of brought a smile to my face. The book ends without really saying what happened to him, but knowing him, I’m sure he’ll make a flashy return into the story.

THE DARKLING: Still the evil darkness, but I feel like he’s this tortured soul that actually really cares about Alina and feels the strong connection to her. Like calls to like. I’m really looking forward for the mystery behind him to unravel in the last book.

So, while I was reading this book, I can’t remember at what part it was, but something in my mind just clicked and I think I figured out a huge plot twist that’s going to happen in Book 3. It makes so much sense in my head and I’m like 110% sure that I’m right about it, but I’m not going to say it, because again, I’ll be ruining it for anyone who wants to/is reading right now (And those who ruin endings of books must be excommunicated). However, I still have no idea how the whole story is going to be wrapped up. There are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied. One thing I have no idea about is who Alina is going to end up with, or maybe she doesn’t end up with anyone…DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s definitely a contender for my FAVORITE series to date. I can’t find a flaw that bothers me and I’m literally obsessed with it. I love how complex the characters are and how they’re so consistently portrayed throughout each book. Did I mention this series is going to be made into a movie??? UGHGHGH I’m literally bouncing off the walls just thinking about it. But really, I finished this book at 4 a.m. last night and couldn’t fall asleep because of how good it was. (I almost contemplated on just staying up to write this review). Addiction at its best!

I want to start Book 3 so bad, but I’m going on a retreat this weekend, so I’m forcing myself to wait until I come back. READ THE GRISHA TRILOGY! (And then discuss with me your suspicions!)

Buy it on Amazon!