It is only my intense stubbornness and insistence on finishing a series that I started which pushed me through the Song of the Lioness quartet from start to finish.
I can’t really put my finger on why, but I just did not like these books. Despite glowing recommendations from people who like the kinds of books I like, I just did not enjoy this series. Lioness Rampant, the fourth instalment of Alanna’s epic adventures, was something of an improvement on the disappointment of the first three books, but I still had no real love for it.
“I’m not sure I want to be a hero anymore.”
Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs….But Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good — but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna’s archenemy, Duke Roger, is back — and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past — both as a warrior and as a woman.
There were lots of great things in this book. Alanna has come to accept her Gift, and who she is as a person, and she’s well able to defend herself both as a knight and as a woman. She forges new relationships and finds a place for herself in the world which allows her to be the best person she can be. There’s lots of girl power in this book, and criticism of male-centric and male primogeniture inheritance lines, as well as an acknowledgement that Tortall – Alanna’s home country – is not perfect either. As well as that, there’s a whole load of adventure, different kinds of magic, new warriors, and a dark and mysterious plot against prince Jonathan…
All of these things are good, and I liked them all, but … I still didn’t like the book. Not only were all of the earlier issues still present – Alanna being a special snowflake, that every man is attracted to, the plot being too jerky, the main conflict arising too late in the book – there were new ones in this book related to those issues. The most emotional scene in the book centred not around any of the characters that we’ve seen growing up over the last ten years, but Liam, a character only introduced in this last book. I felt like it was a poor stylistic choice, and not enough weight was given to other, more central, emotional scenes.
Perhaps, having come in with a dislike of the first three books, I didn’t give Lioness Rampant enough of a chance. I did try, though, honestly. I tried to keep an open mind and to like this book, but I just couldn’t.
I feel like the Song of the Lioness quartet could have been cut down into a duology which would’ve packed the emotional, plot-related punch and would’ve sorted out the pacing issues which I hated. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just cranky and don’t have room in my heart for another butt-kicking, magic-wielding, sexism-defying heroine. But I don’t think that’s the case. I’m open to loving new books, it’s just that Tamora Pierce and I clearly don’t gel.
A pity, but I will continue searching for heroines to add to my favourite characters repertoire, and Alanna can stay as a brief sideline. I certainly didn’t hate her. I just… really didn’t love her as much as I thought I would.