Book Review: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

hand of the goddessTitle: In the Hand of the Goddess

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: Song of the Lioness

First Sentence: “The copper-haired rider looked at the black sky and swore.”

Rating: 4 out of 5 pregnancy charm necklaces

Cover: This one is waay better than the other release

Alanna’s adventures continue!!

I was told by one of my twitter friends that the opener of Hand of the Goddess is particularly awesome and it did NOT disappoint. She seeks refuge under a magical tree (she doesn’t know at first it’s magical, but it is) and takes a moment to basically deconstruct the patriarchy in two paragraphs:

Her fellow squires at the palace would laugh if they knew she feared spiders. They’d say she was behaving like a girl, not knowing she was a girl.

“What do they know about girls anyway?” she asked Moonlight [her horse] as they moved on. “Maids at the palace handle snakes and kill spiders without acting silly. Why do boys say someone acts like a girl as if it were an insult?”

For realz, Alanna. For. Fucking. Realz.

Then Alanna meets Faithful, who will become her pet cat. Because the only thing that could have possibly made Alanna 20% cooler was having a magical cat that talks to her and warns her about impending danger. 

Let’s review: I have red hair. Alanna has red hair. I have an awesome cat. Alanna has an awesome cat. Basically we are the same person. Except that I wouldn’t sleep with Jonathan, but I’ll get back to that.

So Alanna meets Faithful and then the Great Mother Goddess drops by for a visit. And we all know that the Great Mother Goddess is THE ABSOLUTE SHIT because she helped Alanna in book 1, and also just being a female goddess makes her the bomb diggity dot com. This encounter has a small echo of The Mists of Avalon to it– of a respect and worship of womanhood before Christianity fucking ruined everything. So I’m a fan– obviously.

We continue in the vein of total sex positivity because the Goddess is all “you might want to try the whole sex thing before you keep saying you’ll never ever be with a man. Sex is pretty awesome– just saying.” And Alanna says she doesn’t want to “give them parts of me. I want to keep them for myself.” And that’s totally understandable and also awesome to see in print. I love that Alanna has a real sense of self and doesn’t want to give it up. The Goddess leaves her with a magic necklace to add to the one from the healer that will keep her from getting pregnant if she ever wants to do the horizontal tango, and Alanna and Faithful (who is my favorite character in the whole book, besides Alanna) go back to the palace.

The book continues with Alanna’s first experience in war and Roger trying to covertly kill everyone. She proves herself over and over as awesome and capable and generally a badass. Which is super fun to read. 

Alanna is also getting older. In this one she celebrates her 16th, 17th and 18th birthdays. And of course the two boy/men who know her true identity — Prince Jon and George the thief — fall madly in love with her. 

obviously

Now, I would really prefer if Alanna was all “no thanks I’m gonna go find me an awesome and equally capable chick to spend my days with” but life, it turns out, is not a wish granting factory. That said, I do also love stories that show that there are lots of ways of being a hetero girl– that tomboy badass chicks can be totally straight. Cuz that’s a thing.

Re: the love triangle (because of course there is a love triangle) I come to my only two problems with this story so far.

  1. Jon reveals some entitled asshatery in his personality. While we’ve seen that he has feelings for Alanna through the whole book, it isn’t until he sees her in a pretty dress with her hair done up that he seems to decide to really go for it. Then there is a scene were she is walking around in a dress– just cuz she feels like it and right on girlfriend, you do you– and he kisses her and then started unlacing her bodice. When she stops him, he respects her and does in fact stop, but then gets all “You’re fighting what has to be and you know it as well as I do” preachy in this whole “I know whats best for both of us” bullshit. Then he utters a sentence that sends me into a rage: “Go away, before I change my mind.” CHANGE YOUR MIND AND DO WHAT JONATHAN!! CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT WHAT? Fuck you you are not entitled to anything from Alanna. Then later after she finally says “I love you” his response could not BE more condescending– “‘I know,’ he said, ‘I just wanted to be sure you knew it too.'” He comes back from this and in general isn’t a total jerk but what the actual fuck.
  2. George is much more respectful of Alanna, and, as she observes, vowed to love her without ever seeing her in skirts. He has moments when he is super perceptive and understands parts of Alanna that Jon is totally oblivious about. BUT I’m trying to figure out how much older than her he is.. and it has to be at least six years. Possibly more. He makes a comment once or twice about “waiting for her to grow up” so he can marry her. And that’s juuuuust creepy. I mean… to be fair that was pretty common a few hundred years ago so there is a historicalish aspect to it. But *squirms uncomfortably* yeah.

That said, I’m a huge fan of Alanna and Jonathan sleeping together in a totally no big deal way. No discussion of her losing her virginity, no shame or “now you are mine forever” messages or any of that horse shit. And George clearly wants to win her affection but isn’t possessive or anything like that. 

As far as the plot is concerned, Alanna saves the fucking day — of course– and becomes a knight and reveals that she’s a girl and everyone is totally

whatever

and she heads off to have more adventures.

I can’t wait to have them with her. 

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

  1. I loved The Immortals series by Pierce when I was young. Pretty much the first series I remember really loving. She generally writes some really good kick ass females and in at least one series I recall has some well written queer characters. Though only one as a main protagonist. (I think, I could totally be out of date in my information)

    Anyways, you’ve inspired me to go back and read this series.

    Also, Hi! New reader here who followed you back from the booksluts. Just love your blog. You are totally a kick ass female protagonist too. =D

    1. Awwww *blushes* thanks! That is super nice of you to say. I’ve heard awesome things about the Immortals series also so I’ll have to check that out as well. So many books to read so little time!!

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