These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Sarai Balitang invites a lot of it. Would she have still eloped if she'd known about the raka rebellion? Or had she actually figured it out on her own? It gets even murkier when you consider that Pierce originally planned to have her be killed after speaking her mind one too many times, and claims to not have changed her characterization at all during revisions.
A minor example with Kel, caused by some vague wording. In Squire, is she deliberately losing a portion of her jousting matches so nobody will suspect cheating, or is she using that as a silver lining to take away the sting of a genuine loss? On the one hand it can easily be read as the former, but the latter is more realistic since she's often going up against experienced knights.
The fight with Claw, the would-be leader of the Court of the Rogue, and the revelation of his identity, is played this way. It might have been more dramatic if Alanna had been involved, but she was rather busy with the Big Bad at the time.
Topabaw, who is The Dreaded spymaster of the Rittevon royals in Trickster's Queen. Everyone is very concerned about getting around his spy network when they return to Rajmuat and wonder how they are possibly going to deal with him, given his reputation. He turns out to be sloppy and stupid and hopelessly outclassed by Aly.
The creepy romance between Bronau and Sarai in Trickster's Choice definitely feels like an acknowledgement of the issues people had with the series' previous major romances, with Pierce saying she gets why people had problems with them.
In Bloodhound, Dale is getting very flirty and handsy with Beka. When she protests, he drops it immediately and sincerely tells her that he'll stop if she's not enjoying it, but she says that she likes it, making it clear that their Slap-Slap-Kiss is a consensual game they're playing.
Trickster's Choice got a lot of criticism for Aly being a Mighty Whitey, so Queen goes a bit out of its way to make clear that she's only a very small piece of a rebellion that literal generations of work from the raka have gone into.
The tendency for May-December Romance gets another hit in Terrier, when Beka chastises Rosto for flirting with her because he's so much older.
The notoriously thin character Princess Josiane from Song of the Lioness is given a motivation for her actions three series later, when Daughter of the Lioness shows us the kind of society she came from.
Anvilicious: The feminist subtext usually does not derail the narrative. Usually.But when it does... Then again, Some Anvils, since some of the books are written in a time when feminism was less accepted.
Liam Ironarm. Some fans think that it was good for Alanna to have the relationship with him, even if they broke up. Others just consider him a totally unlikable Jerk Ass who has no business lecturing her on how to live her life.
Keladry is considered by many to be rather lackluster as a protagonist because she lacks magic and the peppery personality of the others, but her fans tend to call her their favorite in the series because she's such an aggressive Badass Normal and find her stoicism quite admirable.
Aly is another controversial one, thanks to the Unfortunate Implications of her story's premise, plus her having by far the easiest time beating her enemies of any heroine of the franchise, to the point where there's hardly any sense of suspense throughout the two books.
Tunstall's betrayal in Mastiff.The fans of it like the well hidden bits of foreshadowing that there's a traitor in the group, but others say it wrecks his character by having a very weak and unbelievable motivation that involves a huge departure from his earlier characterization as a Nice Guy.
From the same book, Beka having been in an abusive relationship between books. Fans have pointed out how it makes little sense that she would put up with it to nearly the extent that she apparently did, and also that it adds nothing to the story given that the guy's already dead by the time it starts. It ends up coming off as just a way to make her sudden romance with Farmer go down easier.
Duke Roger, Alanna's Arch-Nemesis from the first quartet was originally heir of his cousin King Roald before the birth of Prince Jon bumped him out of line and he stops at nothing to get his place back. He creates a Mystical Plague that kills many in the city of Corus before it reaches its intended target, the royal family. When Alanna cures Jon, Roger goads Jon into getting himself killed by exploring a cursed city. Alanna foils this too, so Roger sends multiple Animal Assassins after her, tries to drown her, turns her friend Alex against her so that he tries to kill her while sparring, and helps create a war with Tusaine so he can pull a Uriah Gambit on both of them. Then he gives the Queen a wasting illness. When Alanna uncovers this she kills him in a duel, but that doesn't end it. He returns as an Omnicidal Maniac who gives up regaining the throne in favor of destroying Tortall with an earthquake—not that he tells his own followers this, who still think they're participating in a standard usurper plot and don't realize he cares nothing for them either.
Vinson of Genlith was already a bully in Joren's gang, but we learn in Page that he's also a sexual predator, attempting to rape Lalasa. In Squire, the Chamber of the Ordeal forces him to confess to raping two commoner women and beating a third by inflicting on him the injuries he inflicted on them—the text describes numerous ugly cuts and bruises occurring on his body, so we know just what he did to them. Even then, he doesn't have any actual remorse and tries to blame them for somehow inciting him to attack.
Imajane Rittevon is an example of The Caligula being a genetic trait. Anyone she deems rebellious, even former friends or longtime aides, is subject to being nailed to a post on the docks as an Example. Hundreds of raka in the countryside are killed by stretching an already awful law beyond its limit, and city raka who gather even under innocent circumstances are violently dispersed. When Duke Nomru politely suggests being mildly less horrible, she throws him in prison. Finally, she and Rubinyan have Dunevon and Elsren assassinated to make themselves the sole monarchs and do so in a cruel, sloppy way that endangers others. Though her husband Rubinyan shares in most of these (including the last one) and have the nerve to pretend sympathy over it, he at least tries to restrain her more impolitic cruelties and might have had some genuine friendship for the Balitangs in the past.
Crookshank, one of the two Serial Killers from Terrier, is already a slumlord who forced at least one debtor to sell his wife into slavery, driving her to suicide. He's rich, but when he discovers fire opals under the city he lures in jobless poor folk to mine them in secret, then kills them all and starts over when each mine is spent. He does this several times over the course of the book, killing seven to ten people each time. His great-grandson Rolond is killed by the Shadow Snake when Crookshank refuses to pay a ransom of opals. When the Snake takes his grandson Herrun, Crookshank continues to refuse out of pride and greed—when Beka tries talking some sense into him, he threatens to have her raped and murdered.
The "Shadow Snake," the other Serial Killer from Terrier, goes after poor Lower City families by abducting their children to extort their valuables—usually a family heirloom or a bauble saved up for, the only slightly valuable thing they own. If not paid, the Snake willkill the child, and if the family has others, she'll take them until she gets what she wants. She kills Crookshank's great-grandson in part because she has a grudge against the child's mother. When she is finally unmasked and apprehended, she has no remorse and justifies her actions with "I deserve nice things more than they do and that bitch made the success of my business more difficult." And while she's being arrested, she also shows herself as an abusive parent.
Continuity Lock-Out: Averted, when outside of each series itself. Obviously you can't read any quartet from book 3, but each series can stand alone easily.
Designated Protagonist Syndrome: Aly is sometimes accused of being superfluous to the story of the Trickster books, with Dove making more sense as the protagonist. Which gets into quite the Unfortunate Implications when you factor in that she's a white character taking the hero spot from a dark-skinned character.
Draco in Leather Pants: Despite being an uncompromisingly misogynistic asshole who even threatens that he'll try to kill Keladry once they're both knights, Joren has a lot of fans. Even fans who ship him and Kel. (For bonus points, his physical description is actually similar to Draco's: delicate good looks and white-blond hair.) It's probably helped by Lioness having featured a very '80s case of Stalking Is Love.
Ending Fatigue: The climax of Bloodhound goes on rather longer than it needs to, with Beka repeatedly entering and leaving the sewers with no appreciable forward progress. It's even highlighted by her journal entries pausing several times as she's too tired to write any more.
Evil Is Sexy: Duke Roger, full-stop. Delia of Eldorne tries to be this but usually fails thanks to her bitchiness and petulance.
Fanon Discontinuity: Mastiff. The whole Corus crew disappearing? Tunstall going traitor? Beka not ending up with Rosto? It never happened!
Fan Nickname: To be honest, the only place you're likely to see Aly's books actually referred to as Daughter of the Lioness is on TV Tropes. Everyone just calls them the "Trickster books" or "Trickster duet."
Fan-Preferred Couple: Averted with Alanna's childhood friend George Cooper, who Pierce decided was better for Alanna after she sunk the ship of Alanna/Jonathan in The Woman Who Rides Like A Man.
Played straight with Beka and Rosto, as she ends up marrying Farmer, who didn't appear in the first two books.
Neal laying a magic on Alvik the innkeeper in Lady Knight, admittedly with the best of intentions (keeping him from abusing his servants) but taking full advantage of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! because it's highly illegal. In Bloodhound, commoner Beka is magicked by Sir Lionel of Trebond, and she's apoplectic with rage over the violation of being magicked almost as much as the fact that he's doing it to have her "disappeared".
Goodwin's warning to Tunstall not to get involved with nobility. Mastiff sees him betraying the realm so he can feel worth of Lady Sabine, although Lady Sabine herself said there was no need for it.
In Squire, Jon mentions how the kingdom's various groups would rebel against him if he tried to make too many changes too quickly and says he'll leave it to Kel's imagination as to what the mages would do. We find out what they did do once in Mastiff, and it is not pretty.
Heartwarming In Hindsight: Kel disobeys direct orders in Lady Knight, as do many of her friends, with the assumption that they'll be executed on Traitor's Hill. In Mastiff, we find out that the typical traitor is drawn, quartered, and hanged—just being decapitated is getting off lightly. That Keladry and her yearmates don't even hesitate to rescue her refugees anyway speaks volumes.
Holy Shit Quotient: The climax of "Nawat." The conflict revolves around Nawat (and his warriors) being shunned by crows for becoming too human, and very concerned that they have do prove they're real crows through practices like "culling" disabled offspring. When Nawat realizes his daughter has dwarfism, he actually gets to the point of holding her out the window before changing his mind.
It Was His Sled: Most of the major plot points in Song of the Lioness. For one thing, the books came out in The Eighties, for another, all the important things that happened in it are mentioned at least once in the subsequent series, and many people start with one of the subsequent quartets—for example, Wild Magic establishes that Alanna married George very early in the book, to say nothing of the constant mentions of Queen Thayet (a character first introduced in the last Alanna book).
Duke Roger. While plotting to regain the throne, he managed to portray himself as the Cool Uncle while making several creditable attempts to kill off Jon (and then "Alan") and used a fairly simple but highly effective magic construct to keep anyone from suspecting.
Aly spends much of the series lying to everyone about everything. Still a heroic character, though.
Ozorne. In Emperor Mage he tells Daine, cool as you please, that he plans to have her teacher executed while she's succumbing to the drug he slipped into her drink so he can abduct her and use her disappearance to set off a war. And after she'd been nice enough to take care of his birds! He even turns his forced Stormwing transformation into an advantage.
Joren is another. And in Lady Knight, Kel is disappointed when Blayce turns out not to be this, but rather a scrawny, inept, vulgar little man.
Tortall's protagonists tend to attract this in general thanks to their Cosmic Plaything status and magic powers, although in most cases Tropes Are Not Bad—it's justified in the name of plot development, and the knee-jerk cry of "Sue!" doesn't always hold up to examination (Alanna's Purple Eyes and magic, for example, are offset by her temper being a genuine flaw and being specifically average in looks, and Daine's refusal to be a Purity Sue).
Interestingly, Alanna alludes to the idea in-universe when explains why Kel is a more valuable role model to the girls of Tortall: Alanna, being god-touched and powerfully Gifted, is seen as a "once-in-a-century" hero whose achievements couldn't possibly be matched by an ordinary person. Kel, as a Badass Normal, is much more accessible to girls who want to be knights—even though Alanna's most prominent trait is being a stubborn Determinator, that's not the one people talk about.
Aly does provide an unusually straight example. She sails through her whole story with hardly any real challenge, up against a group of completely incompetent villains, and even on the rare occasion when something does go wrong, it ultimately makes things easier for her, ie Sarai running away when Dove would make a much better queen anyway, and Dunevon's ship sinking, which saves her from having to decide what to do with him after his family is overthrown. It also doesn't help that unlike all four other Tortall heroines, her story starts with her chosen skill set already fully formed rather than spending a book or two seeing how she became such a great spy.
Moral Event Horizon: Imajane and Rubinyan have Dunevon and Elsren assassinated. Granted, Kyprioth gave them the idea, but they went through with it all on their own. And then they had the gall to pretend sympathy.
It can be pretty hard to take Blayce seriously when you find out Pierce based his appearance on Woody Allen.
Aly's capture in the first chapter of Trickster's Choice is portrayed in such a detached, rushed fashion that it's more likely to jar a laugh out of you than shock.
Aly suggesting the Balitangs deal with a group of robbers by sneaking up behind them, which everyone reacts to like it's an utterly brilliant idea no one else could have possibly thought of.
The Provost Dogs take their name a bit too far, coming up with a dog-related term for almost everything they do.
The villains' motives in Mastiff sound like talking points from Fox News. Maybe it's a case of Values Dissonance, but it's hard to justify that many people willing to commit high treason over a sales tax.
In Terrier, Beka gets the titular nickname for her persistence in chasing people down. In Bloodhound, it's because she's paired with a scent dog and also shows good investigative skills. In Mastiff... she's cheered with the name at the end, for no apparent reason. It seriously comes off like everyone somehow knows the title of the book they're in. (Possibly because mastiffs aren't as well known for their purpose as big game hunting dogs nowadays.)
The occasional realistic touches to the journal gimmick in Provost's Dog really don't do enough to offset how absurdly detailed Beka's journal entries usually are, to the point that we might as well just be reading standard narration.
Never Live It Down: The major romance of The Immortals, between Daine and Numair. Who hook up when they're 16 and 30 respectively. Plus Numair had been Daine's teacher not long before. Song of the Lioness was able to get away with a similar age gap marriage both because it didn't become official until both were adults, plus people weren't on the lookout for this sort of thing as much in the '80s. By the time Daine and Numair got together it was 1996, and times had changed enough for many people to have a problem with it. He also steals a lock of her hair after Emperor Mage to use as a focus, which even people who support the pairing tend to find creepy.
Relationship Writing Fumble: The idea with Aly and Nawat is supposed to be that Nawat's early flirtations are just regular crow ideas about sex, and he has to develop into a true human before he's worthy to be with Aly. Trouble is, every single bit of that development happens offpage, and when he finally returns we just have to take the narration's word for it, with no evidence in his behavior. Plus, Aly is very abruptly pregnant in the epilogue, when she spent the entire two books insisting to him that she didn't want kids. Luckily, the novella "Nawat" is told from his point of view and goes a long way to rectifying this.
Alanna's relationships with Jon, George, and Liam. Thanks to the short length of her books, there's not a lot of reading time between them, and some fans just get fed up with having to run over another romantic speedbump when they'd rather read about the actual main plot and exciting adventures. (The Values Dissonance mentioned below doesn't help.)
In Bloodhound, Beka has a lot of UST and romantic bickering with Dale Rowan, which some people find far less interesting than the undercover investigation she's actually there for.
The Scrappy: Princess Josiane, for having hardly any characterization which makes her reveal as a villain lack any kind of weight. Plus, she's not nearly an important enough character to be the one to kill Faithful.
Shocking Swerve: Tunstall's Face-Heel Turn in Mastiff. It does work well within the book itself as there's lots of subtle foreshadowing to it, but some fans cried foul given what we'd seen in the first two books, feeling that it went completely against established characterization.
Women are people who should be able to pursue their dreams and desires (including romantic and sexual ones) without being shamed or forced to hide who they are. Also, Real Women Never Wear Dresses is a bullshit idea—mothers and seamstresses and Proper Ladies aren't automatically weak or shallow just for being traditionally feminine. These points come up in various ways in every series with varying levels of force.
Joren's single-minded obsession with hating Keladry can seem unrealistic to the point of Narm, but look in the comment section of articles about feminismnote ones that aren't well-moderated and you can find numerous people who sound a lot like him. Yes, he's absurd, but he has plenty of Real Life counterparts.
Squick: Aly and Nawat, for some people. Daine and Numair, for others. 14 year age gap and relative social status is often quoted as the reason.
Strangled by the Red String: Beka and Farmer are a Type 3, and possibly a Type 2 as well, depending on one's interpretation. About 400 pages of no romantic hints... and then suddenly she notices what broad shoulders he has. And then they're declaring their love for each other and promising marriage while they're in a jail cell, after being tortured, and at a time when Beka still doesn't know for sure who the group traitor is.
Jon suffered from it when Pierce decided not to put him and Alanna together after two books of building their romance. To send her after George instead, she has Jon give an out of nowhere rant that Alanna should be completely subservient to him, like he's being possessed by Joren from the future. And then he goes right back to his likable self, making it even weirder.
Straw Misogynist: Joren. On the one hand, he's really over the top with his hatred of Kel and it's his chief feature. On the other hand, there are plenty of men in Real Life who share his toxic opinions about women and poor people, and if you're a woman trying to do something they deem unfeminine, that's all you're going to see.
Onua in "The Immortals." In book one she's a major character and becomes one of Daine's best friends, and has an interesting backstory of being left to die by her abusive husband. Then she's completely absent from books two and three and only makes a fleeting appearance in book four, thanks to the story moving in a direction that made it awkward to include her.
All of Terrier's supporting cast. They're all set up as important, being Beka's fellow Dogs and a few Dating Catwoman situations with her criminal friends, along with Rosto becoming Rogue at the end. But in the next two books, Beka hardly spends any time at all in Corus, meaning that only she and Goodwin do much that's relevant to the plot (in Bloodhound) and Mastiff has hardly anyone from the original crew.
In Alanna: The First Adventure, she got her Cool Sword from a place where the Old Ones used to live. The Old Ones were never even mentioned again, in any of the novels.
Although it wouldn't have been fun to see Beka in an abusive relationship, it could have been an important lesson for readers to recognize what it looked like and portray how easy it is to get ensnared in one and how hard it is to get out of it even when, from the outside, the toxicity is obvious. Instead, Holborn is a Posthumous Character whose main purpose is to make Beka angst from time to time.
The fact that Lalasa is a lesbian and was previously abused comes off as Rape and Switch to some fans, though it's mitigated with Pierce putting in more queer characters in subsequent books.
The fact that Alexander of Tirragen is noted to be the only one of Jonathan's clique who is dark-skinned (specifically, Arabic-looking), and he later goes on to become The Dragon to Duke Roger is...interesting.
Word of God says that Duke Roger and Thom were originally meant to be gay lovers. It's problematic that the only gay/bi characters in the Alanna books are the main villain and his eventual sidekick. This issue goes away when Lalasa/Tian appears in Page, the second book of the Protector of the Small quartet.
White-skinned Aly being the only one able to catalyze the resistance movement of the dark-skinned raka smacks of Mighty Whitey. And for that matter, so does her mother and King Jonathan being the only ones able to defeat the Ysandir after centuries of them bothering the black-skinned Bazhir. Possibly justified in Aly's case due to her father's training of her, which no one else in the resistance movement could possibly have had. They do mention many times that the resistance would have gone ahead without her — she just made it more effective and likely to succeed. Also in Alanna's, what with her being God-touched and all. (It's also mentioned both times as the gods invoking Token White... if Aly hadn't been a vital and well-known part of the resistance, the other whites would have gotten far worse treatment after the rebellion. Alanna and Jon get help slaying the Ysandir because it was the only chance they had of getting the Bazhir to trust them.) Still, it's unpleasant to have a scene where Aly goes undercover in brownface, and when some of the locals call her out on it, her response is to beat them up.
A minor character named Peliwin in Lady Knight is shown to be The Tease who likes that two men are fighting over her and is thoroughly scolded by Kel for it. Later, it's strongly implied that she was raped by enemy soldiers, or at least singled out for special mistreatment. Neither Kel nor the text draws a line between the two things, but these two scenes are also the only times we see Peliwin. Since it would be a "lesson" in many, many other stories, some fans think that Pierce should have made it explicit that this was not Laser-Guided Karma.
Numair and Daine hooking up while he's 30 and she's 16 is a big Unequal Pairing and possibly the most controversial pairing in the series. Although we're informed that she had other friends (and even dated some boys) beforehand, YA page count limits means we never actually see this, and so it comes off as a straight Student Teacher Romance, which is squicky enough for folks even before we get to the huge age gap.
George's early wooing of Alanna consists of behavior the text itself explicitly describes as "stalking." Among his more "charming" moments are agreeing to give Alanna all the space she wants and then immediately forcing a kiss on her, and slipping a drug in her drink (so she'll be rested before her knighthood trials, but given his earlier actions it can be pretty uncomfortable). Pierce has since said that she regrets writing the relationship like this, as it was standard romantic writing in the '80s, and it's the part of the franchise she would most want to go back and change.
From Nawat's first meeting with Aly, he's after sex with her, including grabbing her breast in one early meeting. Some of it can be excused by his not understanding human customs, but he never changes, and their relationship becoming official can also easily come off as his taking advantage of her compromised emotional state following the sinking of Dunevon's boat. Plus, Nawat flatly ignores Aly telling him she doesn't want to have sex in a bit that could have come straight from the above-mentioned Alanna/George courtship. And our very last glimpse of them (not counting the novella "Nawat") is him not taking no for an answer again. This relationship also suffers from Offscreen Inertia: Nawat spends the whole first book pestering Aly for sex, and is then offpage for most of the second book, so when he comes back and they immediately have sex, it just looks like he finally badgered her into it no matter how much the narration talks about how much he's changed to be worthy of her.
In Bloodhound, Beka referring to transwoman Okha with male pronouns. It's been suggested this is because it would have been too awkward to suddenly switch pronouns partway through the book, or that the narration accurately reflects a society that doesn't recognize this kind of thing (the latter interpretation was confirmed by Word of God). It also brings up questions about Okha's relationship with Nestor (does he consider himself gay or straight?) that go unexamined, leading some readers to feel that they finally got an unquestionably gay character and then had it nullified.
In Provost's Dog, Pounce is the same being as Faithful from Song of the Lioness. Any longtime reader of Tortall knows right away and there's no attempt made to conceal it; the identifying features of purple eyes, choosing who can understand his meows as speech, and the absence of the Cat constellation are all included. The only reason it might look like a twist is because of the third book's Distant Finale, which is the only place where it's directly stated that Pounce = Faithful and vice versa (as it's the only time there's a human who's familiar with both incarnations), if it's so obvious that you think it's a Red Herring, or if you start at the Beka books to read the series in chronological order.
In Protector of the Small, Alanna is the one sending Kel all her gear. Some fans were actually surprised to realize this was even supposed to be a twist.
In Bloodhound, Beka learns early on that a man named Hanse is part of the cole operation. Then she meets a man from Port Caynn named Hanse, but somehow completely fails to make the connection, and the inevitable reveal that he's the Hanse is played like it's supposed to be a surprise. Although we're told that Hanse is a common name, One Steve Limit is in play, so it probably would have worked better if it was a name readers themselves recognized as common.
Pierce has admitted that these days, George telling a teenaged Alanna that they're obvious soul mates and destined to be together comes off as far creepier than it did in the '80s. It also doesn't help that Alanna herself thinks of his actions as "stalking" and he drugs her at one point.
She got hit harder by it after hooking up 16-year-old Daine and 30-year-old Numair in the final book of The Immortals. By the time this book came out, the Squick reaction was fully in force, and resulted in such a backlash that Pierce promised never to include such a wide age gap again.
Wangst: Aly whining about Nawat being sent away to serve a more useful purpose, despite Nawat himself clearly being unhappy where he was and wanting to be more useful. Though she does realize how ridiculous it is.