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.
I wanted something light and fun to read after The Great Gatsby and The Great Hunt. Something fantastical with a strong female protagonist. I considered returning to my first love, the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, but I was tired of re-reading. I wanted to discover something new. As always, whenever I consider searching for a new book (meaning never yet read and not familiar with the author), trepidation overwhelms me and I cast around for reasons to remain in the comfort zone of those I’m familiar with. I love comfort. I hate disruption and surprises (most times). I like knowing what to expect. My greatest bibliophilic fear—reading a book I don’t like. I like to finish what I read but pushing through a story that I do not like is a torture that I would not inflict on anyone. Recently, I’ve started to come to terms with leaving a book half done if I can’t bear to continue with it. It’s great to step out of my comfort zone once in a while, though. Reading reviews of books, getting recommendations, and cover art help me to do so. Yes, cover art. Cover arts are tricksters. They pull you to the book and if they are really good, they trick you into believing that the story will be great as well. That’s what happened with Alison Goodman’s Eon. But the story was not horrid; it was good.
Eon is about a girl masquerading as boy so that she can train in the arts of dragon magic. Set in a culture similar to the Chinese, Eon must work to become apprentice to one of the eleven Dragoneyes (masters) that are connected to the dragons: Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat. There are twelve dragons, each for a particular cardinal point, but the Dragon dragon has not been seen for several years and is believed to have disappeared. There is no Dragoneye for the Dragon dragon. Only males are allowed to train to become an apprentice and gain the title of Dragoneye, hence Eon’s disguise as a boy. At the time when Eon decides to compete for the position of apprentice, the Rat dragon is in ascendant. This occurs at the beginning of the year and the Dragoneye connected to the ascending dragon will be most powerful for that entire year. As luck would have it, Eon is almost picked as apprentice for the Rat dragon but things do not go as planned and something unexpected occurs.