Hello hello, and time to continue my reviewing of the Song of the Lionness quarter. We’ve seen books one and books two, and now it’s time for Alanna to do things that are totally spoilery if you haven’t read them. There will be an image break before discussing them in case you’d rather not know.
Okay. Alanna has become a knight and is now seeking adventure with Coram in tow. She chooses to do this in the direction of the Bazhir and comes a-cropper when a fight with the Hillfolk leads to her being captured by Bazhir who don’t swear loyalty to the King. Oh no! But fortunately they’re still fine upstanding people and Alanna is given a chance to become part of the tribe, and then a whole circus of change comes for the Bazhir, all while Alanna processes her many new stations in life.
Let’s break this down.
The thing where Alanna is a major agent of change in the vaguely-Arabesque Bazhir – and then Jonathan becomes their leader to seal peace – is rather ho-hum. I am in a limbo position on such storylines, unwilling to describe myself as fine with them or not fine with them. I suppose it comes down to execution, and most times, that starts with a sense of a two way dialogue – that if the not-Western characters are changing the not-notWestern people’s world, that their world is being changed in turn – and the value of the not-notWestern. Do we get that? The Bazhir are shown as a friendly, trustworthy people, but the focus is mostly on what is to be changed – namely the role of women among them, particularly when it comes to magic, and their relationship with Alanna’s home kingdom of Tortall. And while Alanna changes, that’s less on her surroundings and more on her. I don’t hate this storyline. I just don’t love it.
I also don’t love the focus on her doomed relationship with Prince Jonathan. I get why it’s there. I get why it’s a vital part of Alanna learning to be herself, and not letting others control her. It just involves a lot of time reading about people being annoying and dramatic.
Other than that, this is a pretty good book. I think Pierce really hits her stride as a writer here. Alanna’s just a fun character to hang out with, and Coram’s mix of no nonsense and complaining makes her a solid sidekick. I’m not sure the stuff at the end with the George Cooper storyline and trying to rescue the Witch really adds much to the story (other than setting up the next book), but it’s fun to read. And while I complain about the process of Alanna’s voyage of self-discovery about controlling men, watching her say “hell no” is a pretty rousing arc climax.
All in all, The Woman Who Rides Like A Man is a book formed mainly of things I’m not fond of that I like anyway because it gets the other stuff right. I think it’s even persuaded me to go read the other Tortall books. But first will be my review of the final book of this quartet.