Alanna: the First Adventure is a wonderful bildungsroman about a girl who wants to become a knight. Since she lives in a medieval-like society, such things are forbidden. Luckily, she has a twin brother with whom she can switch places. Alanna switches with her brother Thom who wants to study to become a great sorcerer and their plan goes off without a hitch since they have a father who’s too caught up in his work to care much about his children. With the help of their village healing woman, Maude, and a reluctant Coram, the sergeant-at-arms, the twins are able to continue on their chosen paths.
A girl she may be but that does not mean she is unable to keep up with the boys in her training. She is easily accepted as one of them despite her dispute with a bully and she proves herself to be their equal as she works tirelessly to become a knight. Alanna’s body does get in the way at times, such as the growth of her breasts (she ties them down with a band) and her period popping up but luckily, again, she has made friends with the King of Thieves, the amiable George, who helps her in such tough situations. She seems to have everyone on her side, even the gods. In the first few years of her training, Alanna has done some great feats for her age. She heals the Prince, who is a great friend of hers, when he succumbed to a sorcerous fever, she got a magical sword, and she defeated an ancient power with the help of her prince. She isn’t chummy with everyone, though, and is wary of the Duke of Conté, the prince’s cousin, who she suspects of making a move for the crown. He is also a great sorcerer.
In this story, we are introduced to Arren, prince of Enlad, an island in the north of the Earthsea archipelago. Something is causing wizards, sorcerers, and others with magical propensities to lose their abilities. Arren is sent to Roke, the island where wizards are trained, to find out why. Ged Sparrowhawk, who is now Archmage on Roke, decides to go on a quest to solve this problem with Arren in tow. They visit various islands in the South and West Reaches of Earthsea where they try to figure out what is stealing the magic in Earthsea. Finally, with the aid of a dragon, Ged gets an idea of what the cause might be and travels to The Dragon’s Run and Selidor islands to find out. On Selidor, Ged and Arren travel to the land of the dead to resolve the loss of magic. The adventure is a success, Ged returns magicless and retires to his homeland, Gont, and Arren is crowned king of Earthsea.
This is the third book in the Earthsea series and I didn’t like it much. The first book was great, filled with Ged’s adventures as he runs from and then chases his shadow. The second book was not exciting but wasn’t a bore either because Tenar escapes and frees herself. This book too wasn’t a bore but it’s adventure was subdued. For most of the book, the reader is either in Arren’s thoughts or kicking it from a distance with the narrator, simply analyzing the actions of characters and their thought processes.