About Me

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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alanna (Song of the Lioness, book 1)

by Tamora Pierce

I read stuff written for kids. Well, teenagers. I find a lot of it more satisfying and worth my effort than littratoor written for adults. I not only slum around in genre fiction, I choose what's published for people less than half my age.

Tamora Pierce's name leapt out at me from the teen fiction shelf at the library Saturday. I'm a regular because my house doesn't have any good spots for tutoring, and as much as I like my students, I don't want them sitting on folding chairs next to my slumping, half-full rice sacks.

My own kids were busy using the computers to play a mind-numbing dragon-fighting game the library staff have given up on banning, so I had a few minutes, and found a fun read.

Cons before pros:

Ms. Pierce does not waste her writing talent on creating interesting names - not for her characters, nor places, nor objects, nor the books themselves (though agents and publishers may have had more of a hand in enforcing the dull verbiage squatting on the cover of this book). That said, there is considerable storytelling talent inside.

Alanna: The First Adventure is the opening salvo of four novels. My guess is they're adventures. And feature Alanna. Really - are there no more interesting things to call the book?

Too little other than hair and eye color is disclosed about characters when they are introduced.

Oh, and there were three typos.

The Pros:

This was a fun, fast read, with well-defined and interesting characters doing things that mostly mattered. Pierce put in a lot of plot twists that, while not shocking, kept my attention, and didn't fall into too much of a pattern.

Yes, it's a story about a plucky girl, magic, sword-play, thieves, horses, ruins, knights, and cross-dressing, and who hasn't read a dozen of those this past year, but at least there are no vampires!

The pacing is just about right for an upper elementary to middle school reader, and the words and situations are suitable for anyone whose parents got over what's in the Harry Potter series.

All in all, a bit formulaic, but successful anyway because the author had a clear idea of her characters and their stories.

An admission:

I might not have borrowed and read this book if it hadn't been about twelve year old fraternal twins who get separated and have adventures. That's about the extent of the commonality between this book and what I'm writing (if you can call 300 words a day writing), but it was enough to snag me. It might not mean the same to you, but if you have a ten to thirteen year old girl (or boy - Alanna's a good character for both) in your life who is looking for an adventurous read, and who hasn't said she (or he) was sick of fantasy, this is a promising start to the series.


  1. This series can be a bit childish at times but overall i really enjoyed it. Definitely a worthwhile read.

  2. Well, the characters are children to start with, so that makes a bit of sense. I'm writing a book that starts with 11 year old twins, and I'm neither, so I'm trying to figure out just how childish to write!