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Literature / Song of the Lioness

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“You frighten them. You are too new; you are too different. Will they have to behave differently, now that you are of the tribe? Better that you die and become a legend. Legends force no one to change.”

Song of the Lioness is the first series set in the Tortall Universe and stars Alanna of Trebond, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a knight. The books follow her from the beginning of her training to adulthood as she struggles with issues both internal and external: chiefly her feelings about her gender and sexuality, and then the court intrigues surrounding the King's brother as well as becoming part of Tortall's army as it wars with its neighbors... to say nothing of her dealings with gods.

Originally meant as one book for the adult market, Pierce divided it into four and made a large amount of cuts to conform to the rules of length and content that Young Adult Literature had in The '80s. It is also a famous work of Feminist Fantasy due to the focus given to gender issues and its message that girls have nothing to be ashamed of, whether compared to men or other kinds of girls.


A list of characters is found here, but because many of the characters appear in subsequent series, there are many spoilers.

  • Alanna: The First Adventure
  • In the Hand of the Goddess
  • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
  • Lioness Rampant

Tropes present in this series include:

  • Action Girl: Alanna herself, of course. Thayet and Buri also count.
  • Afraid of Needles: Alanna faints when getting her ears pierced, much to Thayet's amusement.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Kourrem, Kara, and Ishak — Alanna's students in the third book — are shunned by most of the rest of the Bloody Hawk tribe because their Jerkass shaman rails against them as demonic.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Prince Jonathan is slated to marry a princess from the Copper Isles in whom he has little interest. Fortunately for him, she goes Axe-Crazy and takes herself out of the running, freeing him up to make a love match with the newly arrived Princess Thayet.
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  • Ambition Is Evil: Delia and Duke Roger, and the Tusaine king's brother. Played with in the case of Thom, whose ambition enables him to be manipulated into assisting evil by raising Duke Roger from the dead.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The Dominion Jewel. It has been used by famously good rulers and tyrants alike; it all depends on who's holding it.
  • Animal Assassin: In the second book, Roger magics a boar to kill Alanna in her snow shelter. Later, he does the same with a man-eating wolf and its mate. Alanna defeats both.
  • Arrow Catch: Liam, the Shang Dragon, catches an assassin's arrow during the assassination attempt on Thayet in Rachia.
  • Artifact of Death: The crystal sword in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. It's soaked in Roger's magic and incites horrible bloodlust in anyone who wields it while trying to drain their life-force. Alanna eventually claims it and puts a lot of work into neutralizing it.
  • Asleep for Days: Alanna does this after the battle by the river in In the Hand of the Goddess. It happens again after her ordeal to gain the Dominion Jewel in Lioness Rampant.
  • Axe-Crazy: Josiane of the Copper Isles. Literally. Stated to have been the result of inbreeding in the island kingdom; apparently her family throws out one utter nutcase every generation.
  • Back from the Dead: Alanna kills the Big Bad of the first quartet very dead in book two. Alas, it doesn't stick.
  • Badass Normal: Liam Ironarm is one of the most skilled fighters in the world. He hates magic.
  • Batman Gambit: Roger's plan in Lioness Rampant is this. Alanna only manages to stop it when she realizes he is expecting her every move, then does what he doesn't expect of her.
  • Beta Couple: Sir Myles and Eleni Cooper. Jonathan and Thayet are also played like this, despite being the future rulers of Tortall.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: The Roof of the World, Tortall's equivalent of the Himalayas, has its own version of the Yeti, the rarely-seen rock apes.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: When Alanna and the other knights and squires are sent off to fight in Tusaine, she notes how she'll be in her first war before she turns 16. Indeed, her birthday comes during that grueling summer, which is filled with fighting and death.
  • Black-and-White Morality:
    • Partly as a product of the books mostly being from Alanna's point of view, and partly owing to the nature of the world and Alanna's aspirations to be a female knight and the reactions this draws. Broadly, though, people who like Alanna are good; people who do not like Alanna are bad. Particularly stark with Alanna's friendship with the Rogue and his Court, which means that one of the Realm's knights, and later other knights as well as the Crown Prince himself are aware of crimes being committed but do nothing to interfere.
    • Lioness Rampant hints that part of the reason that the Rogue and his Court are tolerated is because they don't push it too far and keep a kind of order in the criminal classes, meaning that it's more trouble than it's worth for the Lord Provost to clear them out — a balance which Claw threatens to upend. The narration also doesn't shy away from some of the darker aspects of the characters, such as the fact that George, while he's a charming, likeable and honourable man, killed his predecessor in the traditional duel for the throne of the Rogue and his primary choice of discipline is a three strike system that involves first a warning, then an ear being removed, then death.
  • Braving the Blizzard: In Lioness Rampant, Alanna, who hates cold weather, has to do this to face Chitral and gain the Dominion Jewel to bring home. The Genius Loci, knowing why she's come, sends the storm in part to test her. After their duel, the storm instantly lifts.
  • Burn the Witch!: In The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna intervenes when a village, suffering from a drought and inflamed by a religious fanatic, turns on its local healer and tries to burn her at the stake.
  • Came Back Wrong: Implied to be the case for Duke Roger. At first it seems not so, thanks to his very clever and self-effacing attitude after coming back to life, but during the final battle it's pretty clear he's gone completely insane (and lost most of the nasty manipulations and misleading obfuscation that made him such an admirable villain the first time around).
  • Cast from Hit Points: All casters start to do this if they exhaust their magical strength, sometimes without realizing they have overdrawn.
  • Central Theme:
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Before Alanna goes to Corus, Maude warns her that her Gift has the power to both heal and kill, and she must use the healing to make up for the deaths she'll cause as a knight.
  • Contemptible Cover:
    • One of the reprints puts a very pouty Alanna in modern-looking clothing. The third book is the worst — see below for the whole thing.
    • Some of the foreign editions can get... interesting. One of the Thai covers traces over that picture of Napoleon (you know, the iconic one) and just gives it a feminine face.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The strict maximum page limit Pierce was working under means the pacing gets a bit wonky at times, with months or even years passed over with barely a mention.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • One edition of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man looks like the male models for a certain other series got lost on their way to the shoot. Aside from the fact that Alanna's romantic woes are only a tiny part of the story, look at the characters' clothes — you'd be forgiven for thinking that the book takes place in modern times...
    • On a lesser note, the horse pictured on this edition's covers for In the Hand of the Goddess and Lioness Rampant is a very decidedly dark brown color. One would assume that this horse is meant to be Moonlight, Alanna's signature mare, who is described on several occasions in the novels to be more of a creamish color, hence the name.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Page Alanna always excuses the cuts and bruises (and in one case, a broken arm) from Ralon's beatings as "I fell down." Stefan helpfully elaborates that "Alan" did fall down, several times, and was assisted in doing so by Ralon.
  • Dead Man Writing: Liam Ironarm writes a final message for Alanna in Lioness Rampant, only to be read if he dies. Which he does.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the climax of book one, Alanna saves the day with a magical ability we'd never heard about before, with a flashback abruptly thrown in of her learning it. This is a result of the book having to be considerably trimmed down to fit the maximum page length of young adult novels at the time.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Roger. Turns out to be justified when it's discovered that he was using a spell to keep anyone from suspecting him. Alanna's status as the Only Sane Man on this point is eventually revealed to be because the spell was partially ineffective on her because he'd crafted it to target the young man he knew as Alan.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The Ysandir in book one. The only thing approaching foreshadowing for them is Alanna's visions of the Black City — which, in fairness, happen several times.
  • The Diaper Change: In Lioness Rampant, Alanna is saddled with the task of changing the diaper of a baby being cared for by Thayet's group of refugees. Coram ends up having to show her how to do it because he used to change Alanna and Thom's diapers when they were babies.
  • Divided for Publication: As the summary says, Alanna's story had been written as a single book. Pierce says that fixing it up for YA publication improved it significantly.
  • The Dragon: Alexander of Tirragen. Goes from a Deadpan Snarker and The Quiet One to a Blood Knight and The Rival. Alanna even has to face him before she can defeat the Big Bad.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Guard Captain Aram Sklaw, the pages' sword instructor in Alanna: The First Adventure.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jon says as much about his father's fatal riding "accident", which happened very soon after the death of the Queen.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • This series departs from its main heroine's viewpoint far more than any other Tortall series.
    • Demonic entities like the Ysandir have not appeared in any subsequent series, although they did get a mention in the third Beka Cooper book. Similarly, this is the only series to mention the Old Ones.
    • Most magic users, with the exceptions of healers and Bazhir shamans, are exclusively called "sorcerer"/"sorceress". The word "mage" doesn't appear once. Notably, Lioness Rampant has a dedication where Pierce thanks someone for helping her get over her fear of the "M word".
    • Alanna is completely willing to drink alcohol, even accepting ale as a page. Possibly to avoid criticism related to minors drinking, Pierce's other heroines make a point of not doing this, until Beka only in select situations.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • King Roald forgives Alanna's Sweet Polly Oliver act very quickly, albeit rather grudgingly — it's generally accepted that it doesn't hurt that she's going away for a long while. Less good is how quickly he forgives Roger's high treason after Roger comes back from the dead. See Head-in-the-Sand Management below.
    • Numerous individuals (mooks and all) who sided with Roger against Jon. Their lives would otherwise be forfeit, but Jon doesn't want to start his reign by killing a bunch of his people.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The thing inside the Chamber of the Ordeal can come off as a less malevolent, if not outright Lawful Neutral, version of this, given all the wonky descriptions about how it is not a god and how it is completely incapable of defining time and space in ways that can be comprehended in human terms. About the only thing missing is the idea that contact with it can potentially break one's mind. That it does rather deliberately, but it also doesn't play favorites. If the would-be knight can face their fears and make it out alive (and with mind intact), they will truly be made stronger for it and can serve Tortall admirably. And because its power is so great and can overcome that of mortal sorcerers, it enables Alanna to tear through the veil keeping a villain from suspicion, so she can understand the extent of his plot.
  • Ethnic God: The persecuted K'mir tribes of Sarain worship the Horse Lords.
  • Evil Former Friend: Alexander of Tirragen starts off as one of Alanna's friends, but that changes when he becomes Duke Roger's squire.
  • Face Your Fears: Alanna's experience in the Chamber of the Ordeal.
  • Fantasy Contraception: A magic charm to prevent pregnancy, usually worn on a necklace, is commonly available.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The huge pantheon of Tortall is introduced here, with Alanna being chosen to do the work of the Goddess.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Roger, the main villain of Song of the Lioness. There's a reason George calls him Alanna's "smilin' friend". And it's precisely because he seems too nice on the surface that Alanna suspects him, since she's figured out that villains aren't always Obviously Evil. He also plays up the Modest Royalty angle by attempting to be familiar and informal. ("Please don't call me Your Grace, it makes me feel old!")
  • Feminist Fantasy: Pierce's first published work starts a career of writing these.
  • Fiery Redhead: Alanna's red hair suits her hot temper.
  • First Period Panic: Alanna (disguised as a boy so she can train for the knighthood) panics when she gets her first period, since she was never told about it. She has to out herself to her friend George because his mother Eleni is a healer.
  • Final Battle: They get to do this twice, thanks to the Big Bad being brought Back from the Dead. The second time involves everybody — while Alanna is busy getting sage advice from Thom's Old Master, takes out Princess Josiane, and then goes to face The Dragon and the Big Bad, Jonathan has to hold the land together with the Dominion Jewel, George has to face Claw (actually Ralon of Malven), and then he, Rispah, Coram, Buri, Raoul, and Gary have to face the combined forces of Claw's rogues and revolutionaries led by Tirragen and Eldorne soldiers. Even Myles, Thayet, and Mistress Cooper get involved.
  • First Guy Wins: George Cooper is the first guy Alanna meets in Corus.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Roger invokes the hell out of this trope to make sure Jon really wants to visit the Black City, giving the pages a big long lecture about how dangerous it is, and the Bazhir stories are just boogeymen to scare their children but no really lads even I know not to tangle with whatever's going on in there, etcetera etcetera… (That Roger was using Mind Control magic definitely helped.)
  • Forced Kiss: Happens to Alanna twice in Goddess — first by George, who takes advantage when her hands are full, and later Jon.
  • Genius Loci: Chitral, the creator of the Dominion Jewel, is the spirit of a mountain pass in the Roof of the World.
  • Gentleman Thief: George Cooper.
  • Godhood Seeker: Part of Duke Roger's motivation, crossed with Rage Against the Heavens.
  • God Was My Copilot: Alanna is blessed by the Goddess. Faithful is hinted to be this as well, which is confirmed in Daine's quartet.
  • Grass Is Greener: Alanna feels stifled by Tortall's gender roles, and rightly so. But she gets some perspective when Thayet informs her that the consensus among Sarain's nobility was that Alanna should have been put to death for daring to take a man's role.
  • Great Gazoo: Chitral, the elemental spirit residing on the mountain of the same name. He created the Dominion Jewel, an artifact with nigh-unlimited power, to keep him company. And he'll give it up to mortals who fight him for it if they can make it through his blizzards and his yeti form, or if they otherwise spark his interest. He gives it up to Alanna after she decides she doesn't want to fight him to the death because he thinks she's funny.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Alanna and Thom are able to pass themselves off as each other as children, long enough to get to where they'd prefer to go. Not so much as adults, though.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: King Roald was known as "the Peacekeeper", and as a result would avoid confrontations at any cost. On one hand this means that he doesn't punish Alanna for lying about who she was to become a knight, simply wanting her to get out of the way for a while, and on the other hand Roger gets off free from his attempts to kill the Queen after his revival.
  • Healing Hands: Kourrem, one of Alanna's Bazhir students, is a natural healer.
  • Heir Club for Men: Despite being the only child of the late Warlord, Thayet cannot take the Saren throne because it is written in the Book of Glass that women shall never rule Sarain. There's an implication it's either magically or divinely enforced.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The love triangle between Jon, George, and Alanna.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: Alanna can fight just as well with either hand, a skill that helps her win her first duel.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: During the Final Battle, Liam Ironarm dies Taking the Bullet for Jon. (Well, arrow.)
  • Hide Your Gays: Word of God says that Duke Roger and Thom were supposed to be in a homosexual relationship, but the Moral Guardians of the late 1980s wouldn't have allowed it in a young adult book (which does not mean she took out all the subtext).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Big Bad Roger's death is made of this trope. Crosses into Too Dumb to Live territory, for while in his defense he could never have expected Alanna to surrender to anyone, and thereby release the sword, once he saw it coming at him he should have released his spell. Even if for some reason he couldn't, the rather mad way he acts suggests he doesn't even care at that point... which is rather dumb.
  • Hunting "Accident": The "horseback riding mishap" variant occurs in Lioness Rampant. It's self-inflicted. King Roald dies in a risky jump after Lianne's death. Jonathan is certain that it was a suicide because his father was an excellent rider, and Roald was also visibly shattered by the loss of his wife.
  • Ill Girl: Queen Lianne was strong once, but she was only able to bear one child (and that in spite of warnings from the healers that her body couldn't take it), and the Sweating Sickness from the first book ruins her health. Then, in the second book, Duke Roger makes her waste away by putting a wax doll of her under running water. Though Alanna puts a stop to it, Lianne still passes away between the third and fourth books.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: After members of a foreign delegation insult the prowess of Tortallan knighthood, Alanna is chosen to defend Tortall's honor in a duel against Tusaine's champion. She does well enough until her opponent manages to wound her in her right arm. Instead of accepting his victory, the knight presses in for the kill. At this point Alanna switches to her left hand, beats him in short order, and delivers a "Reason You Suck" Speech. The best part? Alanna was only a squire at the time and this was her first serious duel. Justified in that Alanna had to learn to fight with her left as well as her right after a bully broke her right arm during her time as a page.
  • Idle Rich: The King of Tusaine spends most of his time lounging around and sleeping around — it's his brothers who start the war. When they're captured, the king sues for peace immediately so they can go back to running the country for him.
  • King Incognito:
    • More of a case of Prince Incognito: "Johnny", the rich young merchant's son befriended by the King of Thieves, is really Prince Jonathan.
    • Princess Thayet jian Wilima of Sarain does this while fleeing a civil war in Lioness Rampant.
  • Knight Errant: Alanna starts doing this in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man to escape court and find adventure.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Despite being the future rulers of Tortall, Jonathan and Thayet come off as this after Jonathan and Alanna decide they are Better as Friends and she hooks up with George. The characters have a lot in common, are genuinely smitten with one another, and truly do make a great couple, but the fact Thayet isn't introduced until the last book of the quartet (after Pierce had decided Alanna was better with George), and that there's a definite element of Love at First Sight involved (especially on Jonathan's part) makes this sort of writing inevitable. Pierce herself says it wasn't quite at first sight, but it was fast.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The Dominion Jewel doesn't care about the morals of the person who claims it, but it will always end up back in Chitral's hands eventually, and someone will have to go questing for it all over again. It's made clear that this will happen to Jonathan's family at some point, although it tends to happen through neglect or thievery.
  • Love Triangle: George, Jonathan and Alanna have this issue until Alanna cuts them loose to pursue adventure and other options, though ultimately George wins. Unusually, George and Jonathan like and trust each other and there's never any tension about Alanna between them, or really any pressure on Alanna to choose. There's also really only one real moment of jealousy, and while George is saddened to hear Alanna's hooked up with Liam there's no tension over that, either. It's unusually relaxed for a love triangle.
  • Magic Knight: Alanna has a very strong Gift. Initially she hates to mix fighting and magic, but she gradually changes her mind. Unfortunately, conservatives use this as a reason girls shouldn't be allowed to train for knighthood in later books, claiming that she could only have achieved knighthood through magic.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: One of Roger's men puts a burr in Duke Gareth's saddle so the horse will throw him. While it's not lethal, it does break his leg and Roger takes over leading the army in the Tusaine war.
  • Mauve Shirt: Most of the soldiers Alanna befriends in camp when at war with Tusaine are this. Several become Sacrificial Lambs as well.
  • Meaningful Name: Ralon of Malven, who starts off as an arrogant bully, grows up to become a rapist, gets acid thrown on his face by the maid of his almost-victim, and ends up becoming the would-be King of the Rogues, Claw. For all this, he remains rather pathetic and easily dispatched in the end.
  • Mighty Whitey: Played With when Prince Jonathan becomes the Voice of the Tribes to the Arab-inspired Bazhir Tribesmen, and Alanna becomes a respected shaman to the Bloody Hawk Tribe.
    • Jonathan was picked out for pragmatic reasons by the previous Voice (via his minor prophetic gifts, he'd come to realise that Tortall would win the long war with the Bazhir and his people would be destroyed, so took steps to unify the peoples and avert it) and still had to humble himself, prove himself to the sceptical Bazhir, memorise their laws and their history — Alanna specifically notes that she'd never previously seen Jonathan work so hard — and pass a gruelling test to become the Voice. And in the end, when he became the Voice, the reaction was "you'll do".
    • Alanna, meanwhile, did not want the job and only got it because she killed the previous shaman in self-defence, and had to stay to counter the sorcerers of the enemy Hill Tribes. She also pretty quickly started training up apprentice shamans so she could move on. While she is depicted as more powerful than the other shamans, she's also one of the most powerful magic users in the entire series, favoured by the Goddess (who occasionally helps her out), behind only Duke Roger, her brother, Numair and Jonathan armed with the Dominion Jewel and tapping into the magic of Tortall itself. All either specialised in sorcery or explored it far more than she did, and considering that her brother is second only to Numair, she would probably have similar potential. It is also quite plainly shown that she has, in many ways, as much to learn from the women of the Tribe as they might do from her.
  • Mind-Control Device: Roger's sapphire pendant and the crystal on his staff. (Later series establish that this trick can be done with any shiny or eyecatching object.)
  • Modest Royalty: Prince Jonathan, aside from his brief Royal Brat stage.
  • Mood Ring Eyes: Liam's eye color changes depending on his mood.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted whenever possible, but justified a time or two — Alex wants to test himself against Alanna for real, so tells the soldiers with him to stay out of the fight.
  • Mystical Plague: The Sweating Sickness that hits Corus in the first book. Although the illness was previously known, this version specifically targets healers by draining their magic when they try to treat people, leaving none capable when it reaches its intended target — the royal family.
  • Noble Savage: The Bazhir in the third book have elements of this, being Proud Warrior Race Guys who are very big on honor and ritual and live in nomadic tribes — with the exception of Persopolis, which they built specifically to keep an eye on the Black City. Alanna says more than once that she finds their more honest ways preferable to the social maneuvering at court, something which Raoul agrees with. (Pierce has said that she does regret playing into this trope.)
  • Not Quite Dead: Duke Roger, thanks to the Sorcerer's Sleep. Backfires on him though, as this leaves him Buried Alive until Thom resurrects him, with the end result he Came Back Wrong.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Sir Myles has a mild form of it, both when it comes to Alanna's true identity and how she obtained her magical sword in the first book. The latter is a tactic he and Alanna agree on to fool the court and Duke Roger, but the former is one he pulls on Alanna herself when her healing Jonathan of the Sleeping Sickness gives her away. His reputation as the court drunk also conceals how intelligent he is.
    • Thom freaks his teachers out spectacularly when he stops doing this and becomes the youngest living Master.
  • Old Retainer: Coram to Alanna's family, and Buri to Thayet's. Shortly after Alanna and Thayet meet, they have a tongue-in-cheek commiseration about how old family servants don't always do what you want them to.
  • Once Is Not Enough: Roger. He was Not Quite Dead.
  • One Last Fling: Alanna and Liam. They eventually break up after they realize that they're too different in too many ways, and too similar in stubbornness.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Lightning. Its vault only opens when Alanna is there (after sending Myles prophetic dreams).
  • Outfit-Rip Sex Check: Alanna's true sex is revealed to the public in the second book during her duel with Duke Roger when he accidentally cuts through the special corset that she uses to flatten her chest, causing her to inadvertently flash the entire crowd.
  • Parental Substitute: Both Myles of Olau and Coram replace Alanna's distant and neglectful father (to the point that Myles adopts her and Coram outright says he has "a father's interest" in her).
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: In Alanna: The First Adventure, when Alan (Alanna) and Jon are fighting the Ysandir, said evil magicians make her clothes disappear, revealing her naked girlyness. Jon ogles her for a moment before blushing and offering his tunic. Also been described as the "lolwutboobies" moment.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Alanna prefers using her muscles and is overall more trusting then her brother Thom, who prefers using magic and does not trust anyone. Alanna makes friends and tries to help wherever she goes, while Thom... doesn't.
  • The Power of Blood: Pretty much every major Bazhir ritual involves bloodletting and, in some cases, blood mixing. Kids, don't try this at home.
  • Prince Charming: Justified in Prince Jonathan of the realm of Tortall, who is a lover and a fighter. And oh boy is he a lover — right up until he meets Thayet, anyway, and she steals his heart and his ability to speak in all of ten seconds.
  • The Quest: Alanna's search for the Dominion Jewel in Lioness Rampant, which was added at the behest of Pierce's editor because fantasy's gotta have quests. Basically, Alanna hears about this thing and decides it'll be a useful way to prove herself as a worthy person to Tortall (rather than a disgrace or a curiosity) and it'll be handy for Jon to rule the kingdom with.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Roger's motivation, in a particularly pathetic example-he decides to tear down the gods (and die in the process) simply because they didn't bother to notice him, or grant any of his requests for power. Essentially, "if they won't help me, I won't believe in them". On the other hand, considering what is learned about the gods in later series, he may have had a point. Not that that excuses either his methods or his ultimate goal.
  • Reality Changing Miniature: In the Hand of the Goddess has the Big Bad placing a wax figure of Queen Lianne under a running fountain to wash away her life by gradually eroding the figure. Meanwhile, he has figures of the king, Jonathan, the Lord Provost, Alanna, and Sir Myles wrapped up in a white veil to "obscure their vision" so they cannot be suspicious of him.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Played with. Alanna, at the slightly below-average 5'4", is often called tiny, though this may only be because she spent much of her life disguised as a boy among other boys — big boys at that — and carried over even after she revealed her true gender.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Deconstructed. Alanna hates being a girl for most of her childhood, but she learns to accept and enjoy being a woman (including fancy dresses) with some encouragement from Mrs. Cooper and the Great Mother Goddess.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Duke Gareth of Naxen, Gary's father. Very stern, but very fair. See how he handles the Ralon of Malven situation in book one. He becomes a key adviser to Jonathan in later books, along with Sir Myles.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Alanna and George.
  • Reforged Blade: Alanna's sword Lightning is broken and reforged during The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. Being an ancient artifact, normal reforging techniques turn out not to be sufficient, and Alanna has to figure out a special reforging method, which has its own consequences later.
  • Resurrect the Villain: After Roger's death at the end of In the Hand of the Goddess, Thom is goaded into resurrecting him during the events of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man so he can "prove" he's the most powerful mage living. However, Roger later claims that he was Only Mostly Dead. Regardless of how dead he was, though, he's gone completely mad upon resurrection, and no longer cares about ruling Tortall, instead deciding to destroy it.
  • Rich Bitch: Delia of Eldorne. To what extent she gets any Character Development, Princess Josiane is also this.
  • The Rival: Alex, to Alanna. She also has a Bazhir one in the third book, after she becomes a Bazhir shaman against her will.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Jonathan. Roger too, but it would be better if he didn't.
  • Royally Screwed Up:
    • Thayet's family. She was able to escape from them.
    • The royals of the Copper Isles, due to inbreeding.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Used a number of places. The most obvious would be the final battle, where Jonathan wearing the Dominion Jewel creates a Fisher King bond with the land which, if he is killed, will wreak utter havoc on the world. But as early as the first book there is the scene where Alanna rescues Jonathan from the world of the dead (and faces off with the Dark God himself) by descending into a dark well. Her obtaining of the sword Lightning from the Old Ones' ruins (and activating its latent power to save her life) comes only after she "surrenders" to death. (Which doubles as a nice Chekhov's Gun to how she ends up defeating the Big Bad in book four.) In the second book, the obscuring magic the Big Bad uses to keep anyone from suspecting him is represented literally by bundling dolls of everyone in a white veil. Later, after Alanna used the Chamber of the Ordeal to "tear through" this veil, she finds a hole in the veil, from which the doll representing her has slipped. Book three's resurrection of a certain character naturally occurs at Tortall's equivalent of Halloween.
  • Second Book Twist: The identity of the Big Bad. All right, it's more of The Un-Twist, but considering the first book ended with Alanna thinking he was the villain but being unable to prove it, while the very first POV we get from him in the second chapter of the next book makes it clear he is the villain, addressing each suspicion Alanna had... it kind of makes it hard to discuss the series without giving away too much. A secondary example, with the same villain, occurs after he comes Back from the Dead: much mileage is gotten out of playing up just what forbidden thing Thom did in book three, and whom he brought back... only to have the resurrectee's identity revealed by the cover blurb on book four. Sigh.
  • Secret Keeper: In the first book, George Cooper and his mother become this for Alanna out of necessity; see the No Periods, Period example above. Prince Jonathan also finds out near the end of the book, and Gary learns about it near the end of the second book when she needs another knight to be with her when she bathes in preparation for her Ordeal.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Myles of Olau finds out that Alanna is a girl in disguise when she invokes the Goddess' power to heal Jon of the sweating sickness, and her voice becomes that of a grown woman during the spell casting.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: In a metaphorical way, Alanna passes Lightning's Secret Test of Character like this. Once she stops struggling against the magic and accepts that it will kill her, it goes away and leaves her with the sword. Later played straight with the struggle with Chitral and the final battle between Alanna and Roger. He crafted his plan around the fact that Alanna keeps fighting.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Alanna's first one comes in In the Hand of the Goddess, when she starts taking lessons from Mistress Cooper in feminine dress and behavior, and George and Jon see her in a dress. Lampshaded by Alanna after Jon starts coming onto her:
      This was what came of wearing a dress! Men got ideas when a person wore skirts!
    • Also in Lioness Rampant, where her comrade/lover Liam, despite thinking she looks pretty, reacts snappishly and tells her basically that she can't be a warrior and a lady and she'd better straighten out her priorities. Later he apologizes.
  • Smug Snake: Akhnan ibn Nazzir, the shaman of the Bloody Hawk tribe. He continually picks fights with Alanna even though she's both more powerful and more competent at magic than he is. He endangers the tribe several times by sloppy magic, including trying to summon a demon without putting down the right protections, claiming the evil crystal sword that Halef Seif wanted to leave in the desert, and ostracizing three kids rather than teaching them how to control their magic. When he tries to wield the crystal sword against Alanna, its power easily eats him up.
  • The Smurfette Principle: In the first couple of books, but this is justified by the fact that women are restricted from doing most of the things that Alanna is involved with. More female characters become prominent later on.
  • Stalking Is Love: In The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, George has Alanna tailed during some of her adventures and says that they're destined for each other. Pierce admits this seems creepy now.
    • There's also his forcing a kiss on her immediately after promising to give her space. The '80s were a different time where portrayals of romance were concerned, and Pierce has since said she regrets writing their romance this way and it's the thing she most wishes she could go back and fix.
  • Stress Vomit: In In the Hand of the Goddess, Alanna throws up after killing for the first time and again after helping the wounded in the field hospital. When she feels ashamed for this, Jon confesses that he threw up himself after his first battle.
  • Take That!: Pierce's major inspiration for the story was her disappointment at the end of Éowyn's character arc in The Lord of the Rings, where her Action Girl credentials are portrayed as just something she needed to get out of her system before she could happily Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Most notably Jonathan of Conté. Duke Roger, too, so it's probably a trait of Conté men.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Alanna and Thom have purple eyes that match the color of their magic; so does Faithful.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Alanna starts learning how to spin and weave from the women of the Bloody Hawk tribe, having never properly learned while she was being a tomboy in Trebond. When Ishak scoffs at this "women's work", Alanna uses a few pieces of thread magic to show him the error of his ways. Kourrem and Kara later make use of it themselves.
  • Thieves' Guild: The "Court of the Rogue" is introduced here, with George as its head.
  • Twin Switch: Variation: Alanna is to be sent to the convent to receive instruction in the proper behavior of a noblewoman and wants to be a knight; her twin Thom is supposed to go to the palace to be a page, but wants to learn magic (taught at the convent). Instead of switching identities, Alanna dresses as a boy and the two switch destinations.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Claw, a rogue who turns up in book 3 trying to take over the Court of the Rogue and who is plotting with the greater villains, is revealed in Lioness Rampant to be Ralon of Malven, the page who had bullied Alanna in the first book.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: In the Hand of the Goddess has Alanna trying to figure out who is plotting against Jonathan and his parents, a search which is interrupted by the seemingly unconnected war with Tusaine which draws her, Jonathan, and their friends off into battle. But it turns out the king of Tusaine and his mages were manipulated into the war by Duke Roger, so it all ends up being connected after all.
  • Vestigial Empire: The historic Thanic Empire, whose states are the modern Eastern Lands. Roughly analogous to Ancient Rome.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Roger flips his lid when "Alan" is revealed to be female in front of the entire court. It's probably not as much misogyny as the fact that something escaped his notice.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Alanna learns to win she must sometimes surrender.
  • War Is Hell: The Tusaine War. Although it only lasts a summer and doesn't go into gory detail, Alanna doesn't enjoy the experience at all and finds both killing and the aftermath of battle to be horrific.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Thayet, called "The Peerless". Her mother, Kalasin, was reported to be just as beautiful, if not more.
  • Woman Scorned: Josiane allies with Roger after being dumped by Jonathan.
  • The X of Y: Song of the Lioness.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: If you kill a Bazhir shaman, you are obliged to take over his duties until a permanent replacement can be arranged. Alanna winds up serving as a Bazhir shaman this way.


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