Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Series: The Song of the Lioness, #2
First Published: September 1, 1984
Published: January 1, 2005
Publisher: Simon Pulse

"I don't want to fall in love. I just want to be a warrior maiden."

Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna's liege lord, he is also her best friend -- and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince's life, it will take all of Alanna's skill, strength, and magical power to protect him -- even at the risk of revealing who she really is...

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's second adventure continues the saga of a girl who dares to follow her dreams -- and the magical destiny that awaits her.
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I was worried about many things going in - weak sequel syndrome, rumors of a predictable and annoying villain...But my worries were unfounded, and this book is a worthy successor to Alanna: The First Adventure
I really like some of the challenges Alanna faced in this book - both personally and physically. Some would say that her physical prowess (which shines in this book) is a flaw because she always succeeds in her innumerable tasks and challenges. I would disagree. The first book and this book show that she works for her strength. It's crazy to read about the amount of dedication Alanna puts into training, and not something that just anyone could do. She's determined and passionate, and it's pure hard work that gives her the ability of succeed in all her tasks.

As for the personal struggles...well, that first sentence of the summary says it all. Alanna begins the struggle of accepting that she is a woman, and with that come womanly things, and that's okay. She doesn't want the dresses and emotions that come with her gender because she thinks they're bad things. It is so interesting to watch this thought process and see if she's able to reconcile it with the warrior in her. The blended melody of the two is truly gracious. 

And to address the criticisms of the villain - I wonder if anyone who dislikes him read the end of the book. It explains the nature of his blatant wrong-doing and the blindness of those around him. The explanation is in and of itself a plot device that maybe should not have been used. But it raises some interesting questions (from a writers standpoint). The plot device does not make the other character's weak for not recognizing evil. It doesn't do much to help the case of a character who is so completely two dimensional, but it's hard to find fault with the other characters for not recognizing it. It simply raises the question of whether it was a cop out for the writer to avoid a more complicated villain (which I think could reasonably be true).