Book Recommendation: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
I’ve managed to go ahead and finish reading Tamora Pierce’s In the Hand of the Goddess in less than twenty four hours, squeezing reading time in at meal times and breaks at work… I read it so fast, it’s that good. So I thought, having just met the wonderful Tamora Pierce at Supanova so recently, I’d best follow up my recommendation for Alanna: The First Adventure, the first Song of the Lioness Quartet book, with a recommendation for the next book in the series.
In the Hand of the Goddess picks up after the events of the first book in the series, and continues to follow Alanna on her journey to achieve knighthood – to become the first female knight in her kingdom in over a century. She greatly fears being discovered and cast out before she can achieve her goal, and she works hard to prove herself as a formidable warrior while still keeping her secret.
The story kicks off with Alanna’s startling encounter with a Goddess who has taken a particular interest in her quest to become a knight. The Goddess warns of troubling times ahead and encourages Alanna to learn to overcome her fears before she faces the Chamber of the Ordeal, her final challenge before achieving knighthood. The Ordeal itself is one of Alanna’s greatest fears, even though it proves not to be the greatest challenge she ever faces.
What follows is a story of mystery, romance, and many chances for Alanna to prove herself. One of Alanna’s greatest challenges lie in her own confusion about people, though, and not in the duels she fights in and the dangers she encounters. She fights to understand how her friends could be accepting of her identity, once they learn the truth. She struggles with the growing romantic inclinations of the young men who know her secret, and battles to understand and accept her own feelings for them. For a girl who insisted love was not for her and that battles and adventuring were her path, it’s a difficult struggle, and one that she overcomes with grace and intelligence, once she accepts that love doesn’t have to be a weakness. As she struggles to overcome her own insecurities, her difficulty trusting others, and her fears and weaknesses, Alanna continues to learn that there is power in accepting who you are, and trusting yourself and your instincts, and these lessons carry her through to her final tests for this book.
One thing I particularly enjoy about Alanna’s character is that she has very little time for the antics of the men around her. She ignores the traditional boasting and insults thrown at her during duels, because she finds that her silence unnerves her opponents, and responses are a waste of breath that could be better spent landing the next blow. But she isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she needs to, even when silence is considered the more respectable option, and she can be very frank with the people around her when she feels the situation calls for it. Hers is a story of self-discovery, and Alanna learns that there’s no harm in accepting the good things that come into your life, and even though it goes against her nature, she learns to accept what she cannot change with grace. That’s probably a lesson we all need to learn at some point in life.
By the end of the book, Alanna can’t shake the feeling that there’s danger lurking in the palace, and when she finally unveils the truth, not only is she put in mortal danger, but her secrets finally come to light. While she overcomes her enemy, she cannot believe that she will be accepted by the people around her, even after being knighted, so she makes a hasty exit from palace life, leaving behind friends and family, in search of the grand adventures that will populate the next book in the series, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man.
I think this book particularly hit home for me, because when I first read it, I was the same age as Alanna at the start of the book, and her stories felt like they could one day be my own. The series is, of course, aimed at a young adult audience, but I’d recommend it to anyone who can enjoy a kickass heroine who makes everyone stand up and pay attention, even if it is in disguise. For Alanna, identity is a huge theme on her journey, and that’s something that everyone struggles with at one time or another, and the lifting of her disguise is a final step in that struggle for her. But if you can learn anything from her, it’s that you should pursue what you want in life with stubbornness, but also learn to adapt when you find that you want different things as well, and accept that changing your mind is okay if you change it for yourself.