SnakKnights Galore

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aug 21, 2006, 8:39pm

Alanna was by far Tamora Pierce's best character yet! (Main Character that is) She is so cool, and daring. I love the disguising her gender for so many years! She is so cool!

aug 23, 2006, 4:13am

I love Alanna as a character, and she is definitely one of my favorites, but I find Keladry to be more realistic overall, simply because she was never chosen by the gods like Alanna. In fact, I'd say that Kel is almost more daring than Alanna because she really did have nearly everything stacked against her because she *didn't* have to hide the fact that she's a girl.

aug 25, 2006, 8:37pm

Kel also didn't have any of the Gift, and she looks so much more the hero too. I mean, Alanna is short, short-tempered, has bright red hair, and purple eyes. Kel is tall, compassionate, and never had to hide her gender! She had to live with comments and pratical jokes. Alanna looked and acted like guy, so no one noticed. Only Jon knew, and he was in love with her, so he wasn't going to tell a soul, even his mother or father!

aug 26, 2006, 2:18am

It's funny, I thought of it in exactly the opposite way: Kel is more boring than Alanna because she didn't have to be disguised as a boy and she didn't have the Gift.

aug 31, 2006, 9:21pm

Personally, I like Daine. She's so good with animals, and she's really cool.

dec 6, 2006, 6:44pm

I liked Kel ok, but I didn't identify with her nearly as much as I did with Alanna. Despite the whole 'god-chosen' 'gift' thing, Alanna's temperament just speaks to me.
Kel was too even-tempered to be as interesting to me. But I really liked the later Kel books.

7thecynicalromantic Første besked:
jan 27, 2007, 10:21pm

While I love all of the Tamora Pierce I've read, the Alanna books have a special place in my heart because I was younger when I first got my hands on them (I started reading Pierce back when there were four Alanna books and two or three Daine ones). Part of me thinks the Kel books are just as well done--I'm especially impressed that the two categories are so radically different; when Protector of the Small: First Test first came out, I was old enough to be worried that it would be too much of a repeat of the Lioness Quartet--but another part of me is less attached because it was not my childhood and my copies of those books are not falling apart at the seams. So Alanna has to be my favorite, even though I'm very unlike either of them. (Daine is a Mary Sue, by the fourth book, at least.)

I haven't read the Trickster's Choice books (I don't even know if that's the name of a book or the quartet...). Are they any good? Are they good enough for someone almost 20 to read if she doesn't have any sort of childhood attachment to them?

8guinevereanne Første besked:
Redigeret: jan 27, 2007, 10:24pm


I'm 20 and really like the Trickster's Choice books. The first more than the second!

Even though I'm "growing up" I don't think I'll ever stop buying her books when they come out! They're all so good!

jan 27, 2007, 10:31pm

While Song of the Lioness does hold a special place in my heart as well, I personally think Protector of the Small is better. One reason is that Kel is less of a Mary Sue - she has flaws that are relevant to the story, actual bad things happen to her and the people she's supposed to be protecting, etc.

Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen are a pair, not a quartet. I'm not sure if there is a "name" as such - I've seen them called Daughter of the Lioness or Alianne, but I just call them the Trickster books. And...hmm. It's a fun story, there are some fun characters, be warned that Aly is absolutely the quintessential Mary Sue. I enjoyed it the first couple of times I read it, but I probably won't read it again soon, if ever.

jan 27, 2007, 1:25am

I also started reading Tamora Pierce when there were four Alanna books and a couple of Daine ones, so the Song of the Lioness quartet has always been my favourite. But I read the Trickster books for the first time last summer, when I was 20, and loved them (like guinevereanne, the first more than the second). I think they may actually be better than her others because they're longer and so more in depth. And, thecynicalromantic, I think there is a childhood attachment - I mean, this is Alanna's daughter!

I should say, though, I have absolutely nothing against Mary Sues. It's fantasy, after all. So that didn't impact my liking of the books at all.

I'm pretty sure the official name is Daughter of the Lioness, but Trickster is just shorter and easier. I've seen them sorted by series at the bookstore under Trickster.

I didn't particularly like the first few Protector of the Small books, because to a certain extent they were a repeat of Alanna. Sure, the characters were different, but we'd already read about the process of becoming a knight. And I thought Alanna was more interesting because she had to be disguised as a boy.

jan 27, 2007, 2:00am

I'm not fond of the idea of forgiving Mary Sues "because it's fantasy." That is expecting a lower standard of writing that I just don't agree with. The Trickster books would be significantly better if Aly were allowed to make real mistakes, to learn things instead of know everything already, to behave more like a real (if precocious) teenager.

jan 27, 2007, 2:19am

I think one of the reasons I'm forgiving of Mary Sues is because I often find them more convincing than people who make a few serious mistakes at the beginning but then go on to develop all the necessary skills and abilities incredibly quickly. I could more readily believe that Aly learned to be a perfect spymaster in 15 years at George's side than if she had learned those skills over the course of one summer on her own. Also, I liked the concept of no one believing that she could do anything important until she proved them wrong. It would have been a much weaker message if she had screwed everything up at first. I was also satisfied that she wasn't a completely static character; she developed from being self-centred and focused on trivial things to caring more about other people.

I know I'm probably in the minority, though.

jan 27, 2007, 2:46am

I don't think she should have screwed everything up, or learned everything along the way, or anything like that. That's the opposite extreme, and I don't want that either. But why did she have to be a perfect chess player, and rider, and knife- and hand-to-hand fighter, and know all about spying and tactics and 27 different codes, and hand signals, and how to speak to everyone so they'll listen to her and how to teach, and how to dissemble, and three (or whatever) languages (with no accent, of course), and also all the tricks of how to use her very complicated magic... How did she learn all of that and still have time to be a lazy flirt? Did she not sleep? She was only 16!

There were certainly areas where she could have learned things or not known absolutely everything. She could have made mistakes that caused problems instead of "making the last piece fit".

jan 29, 2007, 3:02pm

I don't know. I never really considered the Alanna books Mary Sue-ish. Sure Alanna is cool, but the point is that she's a fantasy. She's what everybody (including the readers) wants to be. That sort of thing is important to speak to young readers - and me too. I, for one, was very tired of characters with 'growth' (the literary thing that grownups think is important for kids to read). She's emotionally real and a powerful message to girls that they CAN do whatever they want. I really don't think that this is holding fantasy to a lower standard. I think the 'literary' standard is singularly unsuited to many enjoyable books.

I loved Alanna from the very beginning, and I reread them recently, and I still love her. I think they withstood the test of time much better than many other, supposedly better, young adult novels.

jan 29, 2007, 5:47pm

There are some things on that list that I think it's perfectly reasonable for Aly to be great at - she's a smart young noble without much to do, so I don't see why she wouldn't spend a lot of time on chess and riding, for example. Learning about spying from her father also makes sense. I guess she could have had a bit of trouble with getting people to listen to her and teaching, but it's just not a big issue to me.

Caramellunacy basically articulated everything I meant when I said "it's fantasy, after all". I agree with that whole post, except that I can't say I've reread the Alanna books recently.

jan 29, 2007, 6:27pm

I do agree that there are certainly some things on the list that I think it's reasonable for Aly to be good or great at. My point is that she is great at every single one of those things - as well as being considered feckless and lazy.

I do not agree that good writing is unsuited to enjoyable books. I'm not expecting War and Peace (or whatever; I've never actually read War and Peace), but I do expect characters who seem like real people, in situations that allow me to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the story. They don't have to be "moral tales" or "growing characters" - that doesn't have to be the point of the story for the character to be realistic. In fact, the characters in those sorts of stories tend to be even more two-dimensional, because they just exist to make a point, not really for the story.

I really think "it's fantasy, after all" or "they're YA books, after all" are sad things to say. Just because something is fantasy or YA doesn't mean it can't have good writing and realistic characters, without being overly moralistic or preachy.

jan 29, 2007, 7:09pm

My point was that I don't have a problem with her being good at everything on the list. The only ones that I think she maybe (just maybe) could have developed in are how to get people to listen to her, how to teach, how to dissemble, and vocabulary in the languages. Anything related to spying it makes sense that she learned at home, playing chess and riding it makes sense that she learned at home, she should certainly only have a perfect accent if she learned the languages young, and she'd better not have learned all her fighting skills when she was disguised as a slave. I don't think the fact that she was considered feckless and lazy is relevant - I think the whole point is that she was capable of more than people thought. I also don't think being a "lazy flirt" took up a lot of her time - I got the impression that she still had a lot of time essentially alone at home with her father, and was bored (It's been just over 6 months since I read these books, so details are starting to fade).

I don't think that "good writing" and "the 'literary' standard" are necessarily the same thing. I don't consider it bad writing to have a character start and finish a book with essentially the same set of skills, especially when the story takes place over one summer. And I think it's more interesting to read about characters who are exceptional. I'd much rather be reading a book and thinking "Wow, I wish I could do all that" than "Wow, that character is so stupid and incompetent".

I don't think it's sad to say "it's fantasy, after all", because I don't mean it as an excuse for bad writing. I like the strong heroines that Tamora Pierce writes, and I think they're entirely appropriate.

jan 29, 2007, 3:00am

Having also read all of Tamora Pierce's books, I too liked Alanna, with Aly coming in second.

For me, I didn't mind the fact that Aly was good at so many things, because the stories weren't focused on them breezing through life anyways. It didn't matter that Aly was good at so many things, because she still had to put up with people thinking she was useless or too fragile. This type of character makes more sense to me than the ones that have a profound change all the time. Profound changes get boring when you can see them coming from a mile away. Because Aly was pretty consistent, it was interesting to see how the conflict resolved because you could tell it wasn't just going to be something like: "Aly realizes she is wrong and should grow up" or "Aly slowly worked at developing her skill, and with perseverence she improved" ... it was more about interesting flashes of information like "Aly had a brilliant idea for battle! Read on and see what it is...." Then you want to read on for the plot, not for the character improvement.

I think exceptional characters are believeable, if only because the reader wants to believe in them. As _Zoe_ said, you want to be able to think "Wow, I wish I could do all that", and that makes you suspend your disbelief more than a dumb character where you are constantly thinking: How could she not notice that? So to me, dumb characters may be more realistic, but I'm willing to suspend my belief enough when reading that I don't want realistic characters, because realistic isn't what I'm in the mood for if I'm reading a fantasy novel....

On the other hand, when reading a historical novel or something, I would reasonably expect more realistic characters, but even then, historical novels aren't written about the ordinary person who lived an average life in the past, they are more often about the extraordinary person who lived in the past, but had ultra-modern views for their time or fought an important battle, etc...

jan 29, 2007, 3:08am

This is really going in circles, so this is probably the last post I'm going to make.

I think it's more interesting to read about characters who are exceptional. I'd much rather be reading a book and thinking "Wow, I wish I could do all that" than "Wow, that character is so stupid and incompetent".

Those are not the only options. Also, a person can be exceptional and still be realistic (i.e. not a Mary Sue).

I don't think it's sad to say "it's fantasy, after all", because I don't mean it as an excuse for bad writing. I like the strong heroines that Tamora Pierce writes, and I think they're entirely appropriate.

"It's fantasy, after all" sure sounds like "well, that's all you can expect" or "oh, it doesn't need to be any better". And while I too like strong heroines and think they are appropriate, I also think that they can be better written than, say, Aly, and that they are in fact stronger when they're better written.

jan 29, 2007, 3:23am

Ok, another post, since something else was posted while I was writing the previous one.

I just want to say that I have no clue where you guys are getting all this stuff about dumb characters - I never said anything about dumb characters. Or even characters of average intelligence - obviously Aly is above average. However, it takes time to learn everything she "knows", particularly to the degree of perfection that she knows it all. Much of it also takes experience, of which hers was limited (by the simple fact that she was 16, if nothing else).

I never said anything about anyone having to learn everything, or make giant growth, or anything else like that. I said learn some things and make some mistakes. There is a big difference. The world is not made up of polar diachotomies.

jan 29, 2007, 3:45am

You're right, it is going in circles. It's an interesting discussion, though.

I'm getting the stuff about dumb characters from books that I've read recently. In particular, the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld had the potential to be great, but it had several serious flaws, one of which was that otherwise intelligent characters occasionally did really stupid things. It was especially annoying because it often seemed like they did those things not because it was in keeping with their character, but because it was necessary to get the plot to where he wanted. Another one is Rebel Angels by Libba Bray. I loved the first book in the trilogy, but absolutely hated that one, because it seemed like no one could do anything intelligent at all.

I know that there is a middle ground between dumb and flawless, but I think it's difficult to determine where it is because different people will see it differently. I know a lot of people loved Rebel Angels and either didn't notice or didn't care that the characters did stupid things all the time. But as far as I'm concerned, it's better to err on the side of flawless. What books would you say achieve your standards of characterization?

As for "It's fantasy, after all", I might say that if someone complained "This book isn't realistic - they keep using magic!"

I don't think I can really say anything more about Aly without rereading the books (in particular, I don't remember well enough exactly how good she was at particular things). I do think time was one thing she had plenty of, though. But I know that she was lacking in experience.

Redigeret: jan 29, 2007, 4:02am

Well, if it hadn't altered slightly, I wouldn't be replying, because there's only so much repeating the same thing, phrased differently, that I can handle :P

It is at least as bad, if not worse, to have characters making stupid mistakes that don't make sense.

(In fact, there is at least one thing Aly says that I think is entirely inappropriate for her character, and she says something totally contradictory later. But it doesn't effect anything that happens.)

"It's fantasy, after all" makes sense for "they keep using magic" (just like "it's a musical" makes sense for "they keep bursting into song"). However, making believeable characters is different from making a world exactly like our own. And Mary Sues exist in all genres (sadly).

Since we're talking about fantasy, I think Kel is a somewhat better example of characterization. Her flaws - her repressed emotions, her phobia of heights, her unswerving dedication (which can be seen as a flaw) - cause actual problems. I also like most of Robin McKinley's books. And Diane Duane's (well, the ones I've read - so, Young Wizards).

Those are just what I can think of off the top of my head.

jan 30, 2007, 3:50pm

I don't want to contribute to circles, and we can certainly agree to disagree on the Mary-Sue-ness of Tamora Pierce's books, but I wanted to clarify something.

I certainly didn't mean that GOOD writing was incompatible with enjoyable books. I just think there are many different kinds of good writing. I think Pierce's writing is very good. I laugh out loud at parts, I'm captured by certain phrases, I identify with the characters. It's not what's deemed 'literary' which many people equate with 'good'.

I don't really want to get into the realistic debate except to say that part of the point here is to instill admiration for the characters and what they can achieve. While some people might prefer more flawed heroines, I personally am a fan of the wow! characters.

jan 30, 2007, 3:51pm

And Kel in the first books drove me crazy with her obsession with controlling her emotions... Give me Alanna's hot head any day ;-).

25emilymarguerite Første besked:
feb 14, 2007, 5:15pm

Kel's books are just more interesting to me, they have more depth in a way. Also, I like the fact that we know what time of life Kel is in, Alanna's could have been anywhere between 2 and 20 years.

I can connect with Kel more. It seemed she had a harder time. Alanna was thought to be a boy, made friends and fought with them like a boy. Keldry on the other hand had to fight against to make herself known and respected. Keldry had to earn respect, Alanna just got it.

feb 14, 2007, 5:15pm

Kel's books are just more interesting to me, they have more depth in a way. Also, I like the fact that we know what time of life Kel is in, Alanna's could have been anywhere between 2 and 20 years.

I can connect with Kel more. It seemed she had a harder time. Alanna was thought to be a boy, made friends and fought with them like a boy. Keldry on the other hand had to fight against to make herself known and respected. Keldry had to earn respect, Alanna just got it.

feb 14, 2007, 6:07pm

While I see your point, I'm not sure I agree. Initially, Alanna also had to earn respect simply because she was so small. She had to deal with her teachers, other knights, people she met thinking she was too small and too weak to be an effective fighter.

It's not the same because Alanna didn't have to fight as much against gender prejudice, and that was something that really worked well in the Kel series (which I liked very much, but for different reasons). But I don't think it's fair to say that Alanna just GOT respect. She had to earn it, too (though it was much harder for Kel, I'll grant you).

feb 24, 2007, 4:57pm

I have only read the Alanna books so far...

While there were many things I liked about them, I'm not so sure about Alanna being "what everybody wants to be". I was expecting to fall in love with her, but never quite did; she seemed a little cold, particularly in the first three books.

I suppose it was partly that I felt she should have at least thought she was in love with Jon before sleeping with him... and possibly agonised a little over whether to go ahead. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but then so I think are a lot of teenage girls (as Alanna was at that point). Maybe they're not going to spend their lives with their first boyfriends, but they probably think so at the time.

(That said, I liked the last book much better, although I felt the relationship between Alanna and George came out of left field a bit.)

Kel sounds, to me, like a more rounded character. But I'll have to read the Protector series to find out.

mar 12, 2007, 4:27pm

Hmm... I'm not sure about the situation with Jon. I think part of that is just that it wasn't really explored in the book. And I actually kind of liked that because the sex and the relationship with Jon wasn't made the center focus of everything - which tends to be a problem in books geared toward girls.

But I could certainly see how that might bother you.

I'm sad that everything seems to have to come down to a Kel versus Alanna conversation. But I suppose that's pretty well inevitable given the similarity of the setting and everything. They're very different characters, and I think which one speaks to each person more probably depends a lot on the reader's interests and which character she identifies with more...

That said: I love them both, though I can't help my preference for Alanna. I'm just glad there are so many people who share my love for Tamora Pierce, regardless of which of her characters they like best.

Redigeret: mar 18, 2007, 11:42am

I agree with Caramellunacy, I was always glad that the romantic/sexual relationships weren't the central parts of the Tortall books.

On the subject of Alanna and Jon - I think she was in love with him before she slept with him, but she was never one to show her emotions, so it wasn't until later that she told him. Also, the first few Alanna books are...sparse, anyhow. There isn't much filled in besides the absolute basics of the story, unlike some of the later books, which expand a little more on characters and their feelings and so on.