Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Desert Adventures • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man book cover
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
Series: Song of the Lioness #3
Previous Books: Alanna: The First Adventure + In the Hand of the Goddess
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 6, 2005
Source/Format: Borrowed from Macky || e-book

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death - either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman. Despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior, Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, the third book in the Song of the Lioness quartet, has to be my favorite of the series.

Alanna, escaping from scrutiny in Tortall because of the recent revelation of her gender, has fled to the desert lands of the kingdom. This and other myriad adventures that she has had suit her untamed personality quite well, and she is enjoying herself - until she and her escort Coram are nearly overwhelmed by a mysterious group of men. It is only through the interference of members of the Bloody Hawk tribe that they are alive.

They are adopted into the village, although the transition is not so smooth as it involves a duel with a crazed shaman and a ritual of initiation. After these things, we find that Alanna has been placed in the precarious position of becoming the tribe's shaman until a worthy replacement can be found. This is one part of the book that truly interested me, because Alanna is always restless and yearning to find her next adventure, and with this duty, she is forced to stay put. I think it's a study in how Alanna is eventually forced to realize that sometimes, responsibility is a necessary burden to bear.

As she discovers more about the Bazhir (and we the readers do too), she finds them fascinating. I found them fascinating as well. Their rituals, their initial prejudices, their lifestyle - they're incredibly different from the lords, ladies and court we left behind in Tortall in the last book. I think this is a welcome change of scenery for everyone, not just Alanna, and I loved it.

Her apprentices (for the position of shaman, of course) are three children who have been gifted from birth with magic: Ishak, Kara and Kourrem. Even as she tries to teach them self-control and other important lessons in magic, she finds Ishak impatient and too greedy for power - it is this greed that eventually compels him to steal a magical crystal sword Alanna has in her possession and try to wield it, though it overpowers him in the end.

The love story from the second book continues on when Myles of Olau and Prince Jonathan come to visit Alanna... and Jon proposes marriage! Of course, Jon does not realize that Alanna is afraid of the level of commitment and the lack of freedom that his proposition entails (she'll end up as queen, obviously) and is flustered when she cannot simply agree straightaway. I understood Alanna's confusion, but I also hated her for not being straightforward with Jon in the first place. You'll eventually see how things come to a resolution (and see where George finally stands).

Other cool things that happened? Well, Myles of Olau adopts Alanna as his heir, which I think is brilliant as there was always a fatherly affection between them. Myles was the cool teacher from the first book and had always known Alanna's secret (about her gender), so this was a fitting way to solidify a relationship between them.

Jonathan also became the Voice of the Tribes, a position of power that links all of the Bazhir tribes. While this move is risky, I was also fascinated by the entire process that it involved up until he finally became the voice. It was intricate and difficult, and I well understand why - being the Voice allows you to commune with all the members of all the Bazhir tribes, which is incredibly intimate and also incredibly pressuring. But it's a brilliant move on Jon's part because, as the future king of Tortall, it will help maintain the peace between all the people.

The book ends with hints of the story of the next book - the beginning of the quest for the Dominion Jewel. I loved the build-up to that point and it just left me hungering for more and wondering what was going to happen next. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, without question, was the most exciting one, as well as being jam-packed with adventures, situations and well, unexpected occurrences. It totally left me wondering what was going to happen next.

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