What Order Should You Read Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Novels In?

What Order Should You Read Tamora Pierce's Tortall Novels In Before Watching the Show?

Now that Lionsgate and Playground Entertainment have optioned Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe (currently at 22 books with more coming) for a television series adaptation, you might be wondering what order you should read all the Tortall books in, in order to catch up.

While one could argue that you should read the books as they chronologically take place in the universe, I’m in favor of reading them in the order of publication (much as people often recommend starting C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe rather than The Magician’s Nephew) because I think it’s the most interesting order and helps readers immerse themselves in the story more than if they approached them chronologically.

smaller star divider

Recommended Order to Read the Tortall Books

Song of the Lioness Quartet

The first Tortall series published, the Song of the Lioness quartet follows Alanna as she strives to become the first female knight in Tortall in centuries–except she has to disguise herself as a boy to be accepted for training.

Immortals Quartet

  • Wild Magic
  • Wolf-Speaker
  • Emperor Mage
  • In the Realms of the Gods

The Immortals quartet follows Daine, a young woman with an unusual form of animal magic. Alanna and other characters from the Song of the Lioness quartet make appearances as adults.

Protector of the Small Quartet

Keladry of Mindelan goes to the palace to train as the first official female knight, now that Alanna has paved the way. She still faces prejudice, however, and must work twice as hard as the boys to prove her worth. Characters from the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Immortals quartet make appearances as adults.

Note: I personally first entered Tortall by reading the Protector of the Small series and fell in love with it. However, the cameos of past characters definitely make more sense if you have read the Song of the Lioness and Immortals quartets first.

Daughter of the Lioness Duology

  • Trickster’s Choice
  • Trickster’s Queen

The series title is pretty self-explanatory. The books are about Alanna’s daughter, so it can be helpful to have read the Song of the Lioness quartet first. However, the books are set in the Copper Isles, not in Tortall, and can feel pretty self-contained, even when characters from other series are referenced.

Beka Cooper Trilogy

  • Terrier
  • Bloodhound
  • Mastiff

A series following the ancestor of one of the side characters from the Song of the Lioness quartet. Thus, although the trilogy chronologically takes place earlier than any of the other books, it might be best appreciated by people who have already read the Song of the Lioness quartet.

The Numair Chronicles (in progress)

The Numair Chronicles explore the youth of Numair, who appears as an adult mage in the Immortals quartet. His childhood, however, is spent in a neighboring kingdom, rather than in Tortall itself.

smaller star divider

One Caveat

The young adult book market has changed significantly since Tamora Pierce first published Alanna: The First Adventure in the 1980’s, with page counts increasing and readers expecting detailed world building and expansive plots. That’s not entirely what readers will get from the Alanna (Song of the Lioness) books, which are faster paced and can cover a couple years in a single novel. If you’re a fan of the current YA market, you might enjoy Pierce’s more recent books better, in which case the Beka Cooper series or Numair Chronicles might be more your speed.

Briana

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

In the Hand of the Goddess

Information

Goodreads: In the Hand of the Goddess
Series: Song of the Lioness #2
Source: Library
Published: 1984

Summary

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.

Star Divider

Review

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.

3 Stars

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Alanna The First Adventure

Information

Goodreads: Alanna: The First Adventure
Series: Song of the Lioness #1
Source: Library
Published: 1983

Summary

Alanna of Trebond dreams of becoming a knight, while her brother Thom longs to be a sorcerer. Their father has other plans. So they secretly switch places, with Alanna going to the palace as the new page Alan. There, she will have to work harder than everyone else in order to earn her place as a knight, all while keeping her true identity a secret.

Star Divider

Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983, and it is obvious. Before Harry Potter, children’s authors had to adhere to stricter page limits; publishers believed tween and teens would not read long books. So Pierce presented her editors with a short YA fantasy that packs the maximum amount of action into a surprisingly short space. At times, the pacing will seem oddly off to readers. But, in the end, it is incredibly refreshing to pick up an engaging, fast-paced adventure that can be finished relatively quickly.

Younger readers or nostalgic readers (those who first read it when young themselves) will likely find more to praise in Alanna: The First Adventure than older readers new to the series. The book presents Alanna as a Mary Sue–a master swordsman at the age of 14, an expert archer, a tactical logician smarter than many adults, and a skilled magician (despite a lack of advanced training). The hand of the Goddess is upon her, meaning she succeeds at everything she does, even where the mighty have failed. Alanna even has violet eyes! This will all be exciting and inspirational to young readers–not so much to others.

A wealth of fantasy tropes may also prove tiresome to an experienced fantasy reader. The entire premise is, of course, its own trope: a girl disguising herself as a boy. But there are also elements like the wicked sorcerer (whose identity is never hidden from readers), the magical artifact only Alanna can wield, the thief lord (and Prince Jon’s embodiment of Prince Hal), and more. The book is interesting and engaging, but it cannot be said to be surprising.

In addition, the pacing seems off, perhaps a result of Pierce’s revisions. Her 2014 afterword recounts how she initially wrote a 700-page manuscript for adults, but was asked to revise it into four volumes for children. A lot happens in the 250 pages of the volume I borrowed from the library. Too much, in fact, because there tends to be little build-up to relationships or to Alanna’s amazing new skills. She gathers friends without readers ever seeing why they are attracted to her, and she goes from being scrawny and ineffective to the best at everything with a mention or two of “secret training.” The book would surely be stronger if readers could see the relationships develop, could see the pain and the toll of Alanna’s training. Ultimately, however, it is admittedly a relief to read a YA fantasy that is not an 800-page tome.

Alanna: The First Adventure does hold a special place in the history and development of YA fantasy, so it is worth checking out if just for that. Furthermore, its depiction of girl determined to make her way in a man’s world still continues to speak to readers. Just be prepared for a Mary Sue protagonist, a wealth of fantasy tropes, and some uneven pacing. The book is special to many, but it has its share of flaws.

3 Stars

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce

Tortall A Spy's Guide-min

Information

*written with Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, and Megan Messinger

Goodreads: Tortall: A Spy’s Guide
Series: None
Source: City Book Review
Published: October 31, 2017

Official Summary

The secrets of Tortall are revealed. . . .

As Tortall’s spymaster, George Cooper has sensitive documents from all corners of the realm. When Alanna sends him a surprising letter, he cleans out his office and discovers letters from when King Jonathan and Queen Thayet first ascended the throne, notes on creating the Shadow Service of spies, threat-level profiles on favorite characters, Daine’s notes on immortals, as well as family papers, such as Aly’s first report as a young spy and Neal’s lessons with the Lioness. This rich guide also includes the first official timeline of Tortallan events from when it became a sovereign nation to the year Aly gives birth to triplets. Part history, part spy training manual, and entirely fascinating, this beautiful guide makes a perfect gift and is ideal for anyone who loves Alanna, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet, Kel, Neal, Aly, Thom, Daine, Numair, and the unforgettable world of Tortall!

Review

As a longtime Tamora Pierce fan, I was delighted to hear about the release of Tortall: A Spy’s Guide.  It’s a beautifully designed and illustrated book that is supposed to be composed of papers from the files of George Cooper, the Whisper Man, himself.  This means that the collection of information is a bit more random than I expected (they’re seriously just papers he found jumbled together in a room next to his office), so I think the title A Spy’s Guide is slightly misleading about the content of the book, but overall this is a fantastic reference for fans and a lovely addition to any Tamora Pierce collection.

There’s an introduction by Pierce at the front of the book that welcomes fans and newcomers alike, but the book relies on reader recognition of allusions to characters and events from practically all of Pierce’s different Tortall series, so I see little value in recommending it to someone who hasn’t read Pierce’s other books.  For readers who do get the allusions, the volume is a treasure trove of information, including everything from letters from members in Alanna’s family to spy reports on characters like Thayet and Buri before they entered Tortall to the guide to how to spy itself.  Some of the information is more of a reference guide than something worth reading straight through, such as the descriptions of various Immortals and the timeline of Tortall’s history.

If you like Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series (and especially if you like George!), you will not regret buying this book.  It’s a great blend of new, exciting information and beautiful design, so it will be worthwhile addition to your shelves.

5 stars Briana

If You Like Tamora Pierce, Then Read….

5 Novels for Tamora Pierce Fans

If You Like, Then Read is a feature where we offer reading suggestions based on books you already like, scheduled once a month. If you have more suggestions, feel free to tell us in the comments! You can check out the rest of these lists here

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

When Miss Georgianna Fitzwilliam’s parents become frustrated with her out-of-control science experiments and unladylike behavior, they send her to England’s most notorious reformatory school.  None of them know that Stranje House is more than a school for Regency England’s rich and powerful young ladies. It’s a front for an organization that trains girls of unusual talents to serve their country as scientists, diplomats, and spies, and Georgianna is about to become entangled in some dangerous plots.

smaller star divider

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In Katsa’s world, a select few are born with Graces, an incredible skill in one area.  Unfortunately, Katsa was born with the Grace of killing, and her uncle the king uses her talents to terrify his subjects.  Then Prince Po comes to court, looking for his kidnapped grandfather, and Katsa goes on a journey with him that will change her forever.

smaller star divider

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

In Edwardian London, three young women find themselves inexplicably drawn to solving the same mysterious murders.  Together, Cora (a lab assistant), Michiko (a samurai), and Nellie (a magician’s assistant) will employ their unusual talents to track down the criminal who has eluded all the experts.

smaller star divider

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Commander Korish Savoy is irate when he is called from his important duties at the front lines to teach teenagers how to fight at the royal Academy.  Cadet Renee de Winter is elated at her chance to meet the hero she has only read about.  The two become much closer than either of them would have expected when Savoy is kidnapped to fight in the underground death matches, and Renee appoints herself his rescuer, even if it means her expulsion from the Academy.

smaller star divider

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Connor, a nobleman in a kingdom on the brink of civil war, has created a plan to hold his country together.  He gathers boys from orphanages across the land, seeking for the perfect boy to present to the court as the long-lost prince, the rightful heir to the throne.  Although Conner presents his motives as pure, Sage is skeptical.  His tongue is as sharp as his mind, but he finds he may have to compete for the role of prince as keenly as the other boys if he intends to come out of the plot unscathed.

Squire by Tamora Pierce

SquireInformation

Goodreads: Squire
Series: Protector of the Small #3
Source: Purchased
Published: May 1, 2001

Official Summary

When Keladry of Mindelan is chose by the legendary Lord Raoul to be his squire, the conservatives of the realm hardly think she’s up to the job.  But Kel quickly proves her mettle as a jouster, warrior, and guardian of a fiery griffin, earning respect and admiration among the men, not to mention the affection of a fellow squire.  As she deals with the challenges of a new romance and a life in the royal guard, Kel also prepares for the infamous “Ordeal,” the last challenge that stands between her and her dream of knighthood….

Review

Tamora Pierce’s books continue to impress me each time I read them.  I read and reread the Protector of the Small series as a child, but my return to it as an adult has not left me any less impressed.  Pierce’s ability to capture the problems of feminism while telling a fantastically engaging story set in a world of knights, mythical creatures, and magic should earn her a place among the most respected of young adult authors.

Squire is the third book about Keladry of Mindelan’s quest to become Tortall’s first female knight after the proclamation that makes doing so legal.  While the first two books explore the discrimination Kel faces from her fellow pages and the general challenges she faces as a knight-in-training, Squire sets her up to face the world at large.  Those who know her personally finally realize she has earned her place among the men—but there are a lot of conservative knights in the realm who continue to doubt her ability and would like to test her skill themselves.

Kel continues to face challenge after challenge with her characteristic perseverance.  She believes in herself, which is often more important than the faith anyone else places in her.  Pierce never trivializes the obstacles that Kel faces; she continues to her earn fair share of bruises and to make embarrassing, sometimes costly mistakes.  But Kel always picks herself back up and learns from what she does wrong, which make her an admirable heroine.

Kel also continues to differentiate herself from her heroine, the knight Alanna the Lioness (from Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet).  While Alanna often operates as a lone roaming hero, Kel shows promises as a leader, demonstrating there is not just one way to be a female knight.

Squire is an excellent installment in the Protector of the Small series.  It includes just about everything one could want from a strong fantasy novel—knights, magic, adorable animal companions, pageantry, romance, and challenges—while making all of these elements seem wonderfully new.

5 StarsBriana

First Test by Tamora Pierce

First TestInformation

Goodreads: First Test
Series: Protector of the Small #1
Source: Purchased
Published: June 7, 1999

Summary

Ten years ago the king of Tortall decreed that girls would be allowed to train as knights.  Not a single girl took advantage of the new law, until now.  Ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan is determined to become a hero so she can protect the weak and small.  But until she can achieve her dream of becoming a lady knight, she has to make it through one year of probation as a page and prove to the training master she can be as strong and brave as the boys.

Review

First Test is a true celebration of female power.  Keladry of Mindelan is the embodiment of a “strong female heroine.”  While not as brash or sassy as her predecessor Alanna (Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet), Kel exhbits confidence, perseverance, and an admirable determination to do what’s right.  She’s a heroine readers will be pleased to meet.

The book takes readers through Kel’s first year as a page (on probation).  While the training itself is challenge, Kel’s major difficulties come from the discrimination and harassment she fights as the only female in the training program.  Pierce does not gloss over the forms of  crassness and downright cruelty such discrimination can take, but Kel maintains a firm belief in herself that keeps the tone of the novel optimistic.

A diverse cast of likable characters, ranging from Kel’s wise-cracking sponsor to her feisty horse, also add heart and humor to the book.  Readers will enjoy meeting these characters, as well as getting glimpses of old favorites from Pierce’s other Tortall series.

First Test is basically a YA fantasy must-read.  Exciting and empowering, it will appeal to anyone who loves a good adventure story and strong female leads.

If You Like Stories about Thieves, Then Read….

If You Like, Then Read is a feature where we offer reading suggestions based on books you already like. This is the second week we are running it, and we plan to schedule it once a month. If you have more suggestions, let us know  in the comments!  Update:  To Read all the If You Like, Then Read…. posts, click here.

If You Like Thieves Then Read

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

George Cooper is a master thief, the leader of a whole ring of criminals, whose headquarters is The Dancing Dove.  He’s experienced, but not completely hardened, which makes him the perfect love interest for protagonist Alanna, a girl who had disguised herself as a boy in order to train for knighthood.  Books include: Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant.

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

This book has all the staples of a proper fairytale, such as magic and royalty, so of course there is also a scruffy little thief who might just happen to be handsome and mysterious, if a bit obnoxious.  The heroine, under his somewhat begrudging instruction, gets to try some pick pocketing of her own for a good cause. Read Krysta’s review here.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

This is an adult book set in Russia during World War II.  People are starving, and there are a lot of thieves.  The protagonists don’t necessarily want to steal anything besides a few things they need to survive, but they have been sent on a mission: find some eggs for a general’s daughter’s wedding cake, or go to prison.  The problem?  Only the enemy seems to have eggs. Read my review here.

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

A middle grade book about a boy who is sent to the Globe to pretend he is an actor and steal one of Shakespeare’s manuscripts.  At first he does not fit in, with his country haircut and lack of skills, but after some time he discovers he may fit in a little too well. The first in the Shakespeare Stealer series.  Followed by Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy.

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

This is a classic about which little needs to be said.  Robin of Locksley is an ideal, romantic thief who steals from the rich and then gives to the poor, fighting against the injustice of the government.  No one can blame him for all the feasting, fighting, and drinking of ale that he and his men enjoy in their spare time.  Don’t read this one if you are hungry.  If you’re interested in Robin Hood, you can check out all the posts from our Robin Hood Event.