Leading up to the publication of Tamora Pierce’s 20th Tortall book, I’m rereading all of her works set in Tortall. In this edition of Revisiting Corus, I’m going over the fourth book in the Song of the Lioness quartet, Lioness Rampant.
Oof. Oof, oof, oof. Tamora Pierce knows how to pack a punch.
This book definitely proves my theory that one of the main thrusts of this quartet is the theme of maturity, if only because this one is bloody. There’s lots of injuries and deaths in this one, and they don’t all deserve it. Alanna also has to deal with thornier problems, dealing with pushing her body to her limit and her status as a legend, rather than focusing exclusively on Alanna’s personal development. The Mother Goddess tells her, “You are fully grown into all your powers, Alanna,” and that’s really the epitome of her personal arc. She’s arrived at her adult self, and now it’s up to her to find out what to do with it. And Roger, back from the dead, has scaled up to match her. He’s out for no less than the end of Tortall itself.
Like the previous book, a significant section of this book takes place in a foreign culture, although it treads less of a precarious line. We get less details of the culture of Sarain, which is vaguely Mongolian, but the details are also diverge much more from the real-life inspiration, as do the later Doi, who are only vaguely Tibetan. Tamora Pierce is calling on themes from these cultures but ultimately making her own decisions. We also get some more distinctive characters in the form of Thayet and Buri, strong women in the middle of a desperate situation who rise to become equals to Alanna and co. fairly quickly. Knowing that Thayet and Buri will continue to be relevant in later series also helps with the notion that they’re a bit more fleshed out than most of the Bazhir characters from the last book.
As a totally random aside–I realized that I’ve always pictured George Cooper as being more dark-skinned, even though his ancestor Bekah Cooper is depicted as fairly lily-white on the cover of Terrier. We’ll just pretend that I’m right because I picture him as sort of a darker-skinned Oscar Isaac and it works for me.
Speaking of romance–Liam Ironarm enters the scene in this book, and, uh, I kind of hate him? I remember being more enamoured with him when I first read these books, but as an adult most of his interactions with Alanna come off to me as really condescending. If he’s not assuming command of a situation, he’s trying to tell Alanna what to do, and he just kind of sucks, to be honest. I appreciate his place in Alanna’s story; he complicates the love triangle she’s previously been in, showing us that Alanna is more than a girl who will end up choosing between two pre-selected men that she met when she was eleven years old. Alanna has the right to choose differently if that’s right for her. George Cooper is, ultimately, right for her, but her own friends point out exactly why that is: he makes her laugh, he treats her as an equal, and he doesn’t ask her to change her basic nature, like Jonathan and Liam both tried.
I love the way this book talks about Alanna’s rise to legend. This seed has been planted since In the Hand of the Goddess; since Alanna’s defeat of the Tusaine knight towards the start of that book her fame has begun to spread. After brushing off the idea that she might be special for the past few books, it’s really interesting to see Alanna become so famous that she can’t deny her own legend, and how it has changed her life. Where once Alanna had a precarious position in court, in this book her presence in Corus holds power. Jonathan specifically appoints her as champion because she is seen as so powerful; it lends strength to his own reign, and he’s already a legend himself. Importantly, this book also emphasizes the ability of Alanna’s legend to change her world. We start to see the shifting balance in this book, and all the other Tortall books show Alanna and Jonathan’s massive impact on the world. Alanna’s presence has the ability to change minds, change traditions, to pave a way forward simply because her talent and will are undeniable. No one in Tortall can say she’s not a worthy knight, and the very concept that a small, red-headed woman is their savior is enough to change Tortall, and beyond.
This book has a whole lot more to unpack–it really is an excellent way to start a whole world of stories, and Alanna’s arc is fascinating and relatable. However, I’ve covered most of my more salient reactions. Tell me about how Lioness Rampant makes you feel on Twitter, or here in the comments section.