“In the Hand of the Goddess” by Tamora Pierce

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce was a great read. I completed the books a couple weeks ago but I am behind on my posts. I decided to re-read the series because I wanted to once again experience reading a favorite book for the first time. Of course, this was a silly plan doomed to fail since I am no longer the person I was when I first read these books and, obviously, this is neither the first, second, or third time that I’m reading them. I first read Alanna’s story when I was a freshman in high school and her story resonated with me. Alanna is a headstrong girl who defies the ethics of her land by posing as a boy so she could become a knight. She does not allow her circumstances to dictate who she should be. She decides that for herself.

The younger me and the present me both admire this trait. Back then, it stood out to me because I was at the point in life where a child’s family begins to prep and prod her in the direction they believe it best for her to go. My family had great intentions and their prepping and prodding were positively beneficial but I wanted to decide for myself. Now, as I try to assimilate to adulthood, I still find it alluring because I realize that it takes a lot of guts to go against the norm and do something unexpected. It takes guts to chase your goals and not allow circumstances or anything, rather, to hinder you from attaining it. Therefore, it took guts for Alanna to continue with her plans to become a lady-knight at a time when such an idea was not easily accepted. She must really have madness in her family, as she often mutters whenever she does something crazy.

Guts help, but being the chosen of the gods and having very understanding and loyal friends help even more. We discover just how much help Alanna has in In the Hand of the Goddess. The story opens with Alanna returning from an errand for Myles. She decides to take refuge under a great tree when it begins to rain. There, she is visited by the Mother goddess, who bestows advice and warns Alanna of what is to come. She leaves Alanna a gift: an ember from the campfire, which when touched can reveal traces of magic and can be used to channel the goddess’ power. Alanna is also befriended by a magical cat, called Faithful, on that night. He can talk. It’s obvious that Alanna will be placed in some tricky circumstances since she is reinforced with powerful magic—the ember and the cat—from the onset of the story. Roger, the Duke of Conté, is still her arch-nemesis who constantly tries to kill her. He throws at her a boar attack, a knight attack, and even kidnapping in attempts to get rid of her. But he is constantly thwarted. His sly attacks keeps the interest in the story high and the lack of lengthy descriptions makes it fast-paced, like the first novel.

Of course, it’s not all action and adventure. There are also tender moments mixed in. Alanna is afterall a teenager so we see her wondering at who she wants to be; questioning the concept of love; and exploring her sexuality. She spends time with George’s mother, Ms. Cooper, learning to act like a lady and indulging in her femininity. Love both scares and confuses her. George’s love scares her because of the commitment it carries but she reciprocates Jonathan’s love, which enables her to explore something new. We also get to meet her twin brother Thom again, whom we haven’t seen since the beginning of the first book. Thom is presented as a contrast to Alanna. Where she is warm and friendly, he is cold and distant, except towards Alanna. Where she is easily accepted amongst her peers, he is the outcast of his community. This, of course, is due to his nasty attitude but the stark differences between the twins are interesting. Unlike Thom, Alanna is fighting for something she badly wants, something that can easily elude her. Thom, on the other hand, is simply strengthening a talent that he is already skilled at: using magic. I wonder if this is the reason for their polar personalities: Alanna needs the support of friends because she has more at stake; Thom can do without because magic is a solitary thing.

Anyways, **SPOILER** Alanna defeats Roger in the end and, with the help of her loyal and very understanding friends, she is able to keep her shield when her true sex is revealed. This I found hard believe considering the time in which she lives. I understand that her friends both love and revere her but even so, I don’t believe guys at the time would easily and quickly accept a lady-knight. Maybe we would of read more on their reactions if Alanna had stuck around to hear them but shortly after winning her shield, defeating Roger, and having her sex revealed, she decides to take a break from the city and go adventuring with Coram.

Another fun tale that’s worth the read.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (book 3) ->

<- Alanna: the First Adventure (book 1)


7 thoughts on ““In the Hand of the Goddess” by Tamora Pierce

  1. About being allowed to keep her shield as a lady-knight – The Beka Cooper trilogy, which Tamora Pierce wrote recently, is based two hundred years before Alanna and in that time period, women were often knights, and guardswomen, and all manner of rough things. (One of the semi-main characters in the trilogy is a lady knight!) There are murmurings throughout the Beka trilogy of a subsect of the Goddess religion teaching about the “Gentle Mother” and how women SHOULDN’T be these things – it’s not confirmed, but I feel like perhaps that sentiment grew in the two hundred years between the books. Having read the Beka trilogy first, it doesn’t surprise me that Alanna’s allowed to keep her shield. Women WERE knights hundreds of years ago, it just hasn’t been done in generations.


    1. Ah, yes. You are right. I think that was briefly mentioned in either this or the first book. But by Alanna’s time, it seems that the lady-knights are forgotten because there are no references to them and the only female fighters we hear of are the Shang warriors, the K’mir women, and the women who guard the temple of the Mother goddess. Even in the Protector of the Small series, which is probably a few years after Alanna gets her shield, the idea of a female trying for a knight’s shield is not totally accepted. I wonder if Pierce explains why this is so in one of her other books. Why haven’t women tried for the shield in such a long time.


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