Goodreads: In the Hand of the Goddess
Series: Song of the Lioness #2
Alanna’s adventures continue as she becomes squire to Prince Jonathan and prepares to face the Ordeal–and finally come a knight. But accidents keep happening to Jon and the people around him. Alanna suspects a powerful court sorcerer, but she must tread carefully if she is to preserve her own life while trying to save Jon’s.
Before Harry Potter, publishers were convinced that long books would not sell to children. As a result, Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet had to be deeply edited before it was accepted for publication. And now, post-Harry Potter, her work feels rushed and incomplete. Still, some readers may enjoy being able to finish a young adult fantasy novel within a few days, while others will enjoy reading about Alanna and her adventures despite the novel’s structural flaws.
I remember enjoying the Alanna books immensely when I was younger, so I was a little surprised to notice how quickly the story advances and how many gaps there seem to be in the plot. The book covers a span of several years, moving from Alanna’s early teens to her adulthood and chance at knighthood. This creates an odd dilemma where she seems to be but a child, yet is suddenly falling in love and pondering whose bed she might like to get in. Readers may have to remind themselves Alanna is no longer 13.
Coupled with the fast pace are a series of gaps in the plot, where it seems as if information is missing. Motivations sometimes seem unclear, while at other times the story seems to be going a bit in circles. Then, suddenly, the plot jumps forward and things are happening at lightning speed, and it all seems a little unreal. Readers, at some point, will just to accept that the structure is all over the place, and they are simply along for the ride.
More difficult to swallow for readers may be Alanna’s Mary Sue characterization, as well as the troublesome representation of her love interests. As in the first book, Alanna is good at everything. The best, really. She can fight with all weapons. She can fight with both hands. She can do magic. Along with that, she is beautiful (with violet eyes!), chosen by the gods, and the proud owner of several magical artifacts and a talking, supernatural cat guardian. Alanna can do no wrong and everyone loves her.
Everyone loves her and that means, of course, a love triangle with Alanna, the heir to the throne, and the Prince of Thieves. Both Jon and George act a little creepy in this book, forcing kisses upon Alanna, who protests she does not want them, but who, according to them, “secretly likes it.” They both came across as a bit predatory, especially George, who is described as “stalking” Alanna. I guess this passed for romance in the 1980s, but it all seems very out of place in a fantasy series typically celebrated for its girl power.
If readers can overlook all this, however, the plot is pretty interesting. It feels kind of rewarding to be able to get through so many events in one sitting and to see how many enemies Alanna can mercilessly defeat while proving girls can grow up to be knights, too. The book is, however, a product of its time, and readers should be aware of that.