Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Reading Madness: Protector of the Small Quartet

Now we come to the second in the series of discussions with Liz from Assorted Leafs. If you can count, and I know many of you can, you've probably figured out these were supposed to weekly discussions, written and posted weekly, in a weekly sort of format. I dropped this ball so hard, it's currently floating in a sea of magma in the Earth's core. Liz is the most patient blogging partner on the face of this planet and she deserves a medal or, in the very least, a cupcake.

This week, we're talking about Protector of the Small, the second lady knight series by Tamora Pierce. It features Keladry, the first girl in all the land who wants to follow in Lady Alanna's footsteps and become a knight. Keladry is definitely not Alanna - she has no magic and a very different background. Oh, and she gets to be a girl the whole series, instead of spending the first three books stuffing her pants with socks. 

I've dotted the discussion with more cover art from the books, but my choices were pretty sparse because this is a more recent series. Also, the original cover art kept the pictures in line with Keladry's description as something of a tomboy and the new art is like, "No, we have to make it floofy! Girls like floofy!" It's still pretty, but it doesn't reflect the series as well as the original art.

Lovely, lovely Liz is in Green and I'm in Blue.
What was your favorite book from the series and why?
Liz: I loved the second book in the series the most; the struggles that Kel faced at every turn seemed very real and gripping to me. It also showed her courage, perseverance and leadership at every stage.
Brittany: I loved the last book. It wrapped up a lot of things, but also didn’t end with Kel getting into a nonsense romance for romance-sake. Pierce is very good at not falling to the “It’s YA, Romance is Required!” schtick. Kel is obviously human - she loves and she learns and she gets hurt- but she ends the series as she started, incredibly independent and awesome.

Who was your favorite character? What did you appreciate about them?
Liz: I appreciated the presence of Neal in the books. I’m not entirely sure that he was my favorite, but I think he brought a lot of dimension to the story in...interesting ways.
Brittany: I love seeing familiar faces come back. I had completely forgotten that Daine and Numair were in this series, so the continuity of blog posts is going to go right out the window after this one. Ah well - I heart Numair, so it’s enough.

Which character would you most like to meet? What would you ask—or say?
Liz: I would most like to meet Alanna from this quartet as she’s older and perhaps wiser than the last time we saw her. I’d like to pick her brain about the role of females in their present day society.
Brittany: I would love to meet Lalasa and get some sewing lessons! I also want to know how her business is doing and see all of her amazing work.

Is the story plot or character driven? In other words, do events unfold quickly? Or is more time spent developing characters' inner lives?
Liz:I think both arguments could be made. I prefer to read the stories as character driven since it felt more like a grand coming of age story in regards to Kel, but I could see the argument being made for a story plot.
Brittany: I agree with Liz - there are significant elements of both.

What scene resonated most with you personally in either a positive or negative way? Why?
Liz: The moment where Kel had to climb the tower to save her maid. It resonated with me positively because she was able to overcome her paralyzing fear in order to save a life. It was such a badass moment.
Brittany: There are so many! I think the one that I go back to the most was Kel taking over during the fight with the bandits in "Page". Her year-mates learned that, when you're facing true danger, it doesn't matter who is what gender. 

Did you think Kel had a harder time overcoming gender barriers than Alanna did? Alanna had the benefit of hiding her gender and later revealing herself after she had proven she could be a knight, but Kel was open about her gender through the whole series. What do you think of how that played out?
Liz: I do think Kel had a harder time dealing with the gender barrier as every turn it seemed as if she was set up to fail. I think she was only set up to fail because of her gender rather than what Alanna went through with everything being more difficult because they were all ‘boys’. I think it could have played out a little better if as Kel graduated, another female or two also tried to work through the system regardless if they succeed or fail. Alanna paved the way for Kel (kind of, a rough rocky way) but I wanted to see Kel create a better way for the females who followed her.
Brittany: I also think Kel had a harder time, but I also think Kel was more focused and more determined. A lot of Kel’s “distractions” during her training years were minor compared to Alanna’s, which allowed Kel to focus more on training up her weaknesses.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March Madness: Song of the Lioness Quartet Discussion

Here we are in March and I haven't written a review since early January. Such is life, I suppose.
For a few months now, Liz from Assorted Leafs and I have talked about doing a focused book discussion month. We're finally getting to that and starting with one of our favorite authors - Tamora Pierce

Nostalgia Factor x100: My first book!
Now, I panned Battle Magic as something awful, but that's the exception, not the rule. Tamora Pierce has always been a favorite author. She has a rich and prolific writing resume and stands as one of the best authors for character-driven stories with awesome female AND male characters.

Disclaimer: Liz included a disclaimer on her page about our discussion including spoilers, but, seriously, the first book in the series was released in 1983. If the book is older than I am, no disclaimers for you. 

I will give a disclaimer that I haven't read this series in more than a year, so my answers are a little vague. I promise to make that up with the remaining series. Serieses? Seri? All the rest of the bookies. 

Our first series is Song of the Lioness, which has four books to it; 
Alanna: The First Adventure 
In the Hand of the Goddess 
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man 
 Lioness Rampant. 

This was Pierce’s first book series, the first book series in her Tortall Universe, and was originally a single novel written for adults. At the suggestion of her agent, she broke the original manuscript into four books and rewrote them for young adults. If you ask her about the original manuscript, she'll tell you it's lost somewhere in the annals of time, which is a shame. I'd love to read it.

I'm wearing the lovely shade of BLUE, as always, while my cohort, Liz, rocks GREEN. I've tried to wrangle the formatting, but there might be some weird spots because this was originally written in Google Docs. 

As a complete aside, this series has been reprinted many times and every.single.time, there was awesome cover art. I've highlighted a few of my favorite throughout this post, but I highly suggest you Google for the rest of it. 

What was your favorite book from the series and why?
Brittany: I would have to go with the first book because I have epic amounts of nostalgia attached to that book and I will never, ever stop loving it. It always sticks me.
Liz: I would say the last book, Lioness Rampant, as there were a lot of conclusions in it that really completed the story for me. It left a lot of warm fuzzies and I kind of always loved who she wound up with in the end.

Who was your favorite character?
Brittany: George’s mom! She’s such a strong character and obviously has gone through a lot to raise a good human in George. I was super excited to read the Beka Cooper series because she has a cameo.
Liz: George’s mom was GREAT, but I have a close tie between Alanna and George; I’d rather say that my favorite relationship was between George and Alanna. Their dynamics and moments were great.

How did you experience the series? Were you immediately drawn into the story--or did it take you a while?
Brittany: A friend recommended the series to me when we were in the 9th grade. In addition to cementing a lifelong friendship that I still have to this day, it was one of the first stories that I read with a female character who knew who she was, what she wanted, and had no time for any BS, including romantic relationships. I devoured the whole series and every Pierce book I could find after that.
Liz: Back in my middle school days, I read close to 25 books a month or so. I was a very avid, enthusiastic reader. As such, I antagonized my favorite librarians into recommending books to me which led me to The Song of the Lioness Quartet. While I read the series, it made me feel like I could take on the world. I was immediately drawn to follow Alanna’s story as she was courageous to fight for who she wanted to be rather than accept what she was expected to be. I enjoyed the strength of the relationships that Alanna forged and did little else until I finished the series.

Do you find Alanna to be a convincing character?
Brittany: I do, because she’s so focused on being a great knight that she ends up flawed in other ways
Liz: I find Alanna to be a convincing character because of the dynamics between her strengths and flaws. She seems to be a much more realistic character because of it and there are plenty of reasons throughout the stories that made me want to rally behind her rather than scoff at her.  

Who in this book would you most like to meet? What would you ask—or say?
Brittany: George Cooper and his mom. They just seem like very open, welcoming people.
Liz: I would like to meet Thom, Alanna’s twin brother, just to see if there was more to his story. I was curious to find out how his training was and who he had made friends with or what his daily life had been like.

Consider the ending. Did you expect it or were you surprised? If you could rewrite the ending, would you? In other words, did you find the ending satisfying? Why or why not.
Brittany: I will admit it’s been awhile since I read the entire series, but with the way Pierce writes her world, Alanna’s story is still continuing. I like where she’s gone as a character, as seen through the eyes of her daughter, and that she’s still a solid, independent character who didn’t fall into the trap of becoming a faceless parent-character.
Liz: I did like the ending because I felt like there were enough endings to many of the characters I had come to know yet it left it open enough where there could be more stories about Alanna. With her personality, I have no doubt that her adventures continue (as we see in the Trickster’s Duology) but there was enough to know that her life had reach a happy point where she could forge forward to have a good life, if not a little chaotic.

If you were to talk with the author, what would you want to know?
Brittany: What are the primary differences between the series as it was published and how it was written when it was an adult fantasy novel?
Liz: If you could go back and rewrite any parts of the series, what would they be and why?

Happy book discussions and reading month!