Actually, the title of this review is a complete misnomer. The Song of the Lioness Quartet is a series of four books about a girl named Alanna and her friends and family who work towards helping her become the first lady knight in the Kingdom of Tortall. A few of them know she’s a girl, most just believe her to be a really small boy. No one cuts her any slack.
The first of the books is (quite originally!) Alanna: The First Adventure. It’s about the time Alanna spends as a page in training to be a knight, and is a lot more exciting than the dry description that I’m about to provide. She makes friends with the other pages (and Prince Jonathan) – and some enemies. Her manservant, Coram, helps her hide her more feminine qualities, and coaches her in the martial arts. She also makes friends with George, the King of Thieves. There are adventures to be had, magic trials to win, and lessons to learn. I love that Ms. Pierce has written such a driven female character, who while troubled about lying to those she likes and respects, is unwilling to back down, and will do whatever it takes to achieve her goal.
The second, In the Hand of the Goddess, is about Alanna’s time as a squire. We learn that Alanna is a favorite of the Great Mother Goddess, and as such is going to be one of those people whose actions the fate of entire nations turn upon. Her enemies are both closer and more deadly, and Jonathan and George are now aware of her true identity. The Great Mother Goddess has gifted her with a charm and a companion to help her on her journey. The charm helps her identify when others are using magic, and her companion is the cat, Faithful, who speaks to Alanna but is only sometimes understood by others.
The third, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, finds Alanna fully knighted, with her real identity revealed to the world. It, and the fourth book, Lioness Rampant, deal with Alanna’s struggle to learn to lead, to be a female in what is a mostly male led environment, and how to have romantic relationships. And, of course, she is kicking ass and taking names. That goes without saying.
One of the things that I like best about this series in particular is that the author is very open about the fact that Alanna is growing up, starting her cycle, and having sex with various people she cares about, but in a non-explicit way. There is none of the usual “good girls have to stay a virgin” nonsense that is so common in literature for upper elementary and middle school-aged children. I really recommend this series for ages 9 or 10 and up. Read it with your kids and talk about it. There is a wealth of things to converse about, not least of which is that it is a wonderful example of feminist writing.