Welcome, fellow reader, to a review of the final book of The Song of the Lioness quartet. This is gonna get real spoilery, so I’m going to stick an image in so they don’t start right away and you can nope out if you wish.
Alanna’s become a squire. She’s become a female knight. She’s found her way in the world and established her worth. Now there are three challenges ahead of her.
The first, self-imposed, is to find the Dominion Jewel so Jonathan can be a magically good King and make Tortall Tortall-y happy.
The second is to deal with the fact that her brother Thom decided to resurrect Roger of Conte from the dead, because apparently Thom’s the sort of wizard who puts everything into his INT score and dumps his WIS so low that a mob of five year old children hopped up on sugar would make better decisions.
The third is to find TROO LOVE.
If I sound a little silly about this all, it’s because this book is a little silly. It takes the emotional arcs, the themes and build up of the three preceding books and jumps the shark. The Dominion Jewel kinda comes out of nowhere; I get why Alanna and her desire to prove herself is chasing this thing, but I wish there’d been more build up. Then there’s Alanna’s squeeze for the book, Liam Ironarm, the Shang Dragon. There’s two ways to view Liam and his relationship with Alanna:
1) He’s a man who’s been raised in a harsh, ‘all in’ environment that’s left him with some prejudices, prejudices that he faces as head-on as he can in order to ensure they both get what they deserve
2) He’s a bit of a dick
I think both are true. Liam’s got some strong ideas on what it means to be a warrior, and they involve no magic. This goes down poorly with Alanna, who’s got used to her magic, and fully believes in using it to save lives. The arguments are inevitable. Liam doesn’t come across well. I don’t think he comes across awfully – he mostly accepts that they are different and she shouldn’t change for him and that while that means the end of their romance, he could still try to be a friend. In a lot of ways it’s a good arc about acceptance and its limits, with some touching scenes, but there’s also a lot of ways in which it was annoying as hell to read.
The confrontation with Roger feels somewhat unsatisfying too; like it adds nothing to the story. She’s beaten him once, what does beating him again prove? What does it add to Alanna’s arc? The action in itself isn’t that great and the casualties lost in beating him include Faithful, and I’m pretty much never going to approve of killing a cat in a book that’s mostly on the warm comforting end of the genre.
My particular grudges with the author’s choices – they’re not bad, just no what I wanted to read – aside on about half the book, this is an enjoyable enough story. But I can’t think of anything much here that clears that hurdle and makes me excited to tell you about it. I think Alanna takes a step forwards in asserting her autonomy, equality, and femininity which is cool to see, but other than that, I don’t really see why this series needed a book 4. Or maybe I mean I don’t see why it needed this book 4.
It was fun to spend time with Alanna again, but the beginning of the adventure beat the end.