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I have loved reading ever since I was a child, and there are many books I have read over the years that remain firm favourites. But there is one author whose work I love so much that it inspired me to become a writer myself. That author is Tamora Pierce, and today I want to introduce you to her books and why I love them so much.
And because I love her books so much and am sure you will too, I’m giving you the opportunity to win a whole series of your choice. Just read through the introductions to each series below and then let me know which one you’d like to win. A winner will be picked at random and I will buy them the series they have chosen. Sound simple enough? Well let’s get to it…
About Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce is an American author who has written numerous fantasy books aimed at pre-teens and teenagers. The vast majority of these books revolve around the development of a young female character, something which I have previously noted in my blog post celebrating strong female characters. Tamora Pierce writes in her biography that she fell in love with fantasy series like Lord of The Rings as a child but noticed that they were sorely lacking teenage girl warriors, and so she began writing those characters into her own stories.
Her first published work, Song of the Lioness, was originally written as an adult novel, however it was suggested that she rewrite it as a Young Adult series which is what she did. And I’m so glad that’s what happened, because her series are just so magical, and the characters are people you really wish you knew (or were yourself).
The Tortallan and Circle Universes
Tamora Pierce’s books are set in two different universes, although both involve magic of some kind. The Tortallan universe is my favourite of the two, but both have their charms. The series set in Tortall often focus around the kingdom’s knights and there are more battles, whereas the Circle universe centres more on the mages and their training. And the Tortallan series tend to focus on a single female heroine, whereas the Circle series have four main characters – three female and one male.
Both universes include a range of nationalities and social statuses, however the Circle universe seems to be a bit more varied in this than the Tortallan one. The Circle universe is based on the medieval Middle East and Central Asia, which is perhaps why there is so much more cultural variety within the books.
There are also far more books set in the Tortallan universe than the Circle universe, as you’ll see below. For ease of reference I shall write Tortall or Circle next to each series.
Song of The Lioness (Tortall)
The Song of The Lioness* quartet is Tamora Pierce’s debut work and beloved by many. It follows Alanna, who switches places with her twin brother Thom and pretends to be a boy so that she can train to be a knight. She has no interest in following the path laid out for noble women, and her brother wants to train to be a mage rather than a knight. So the pair hatch a plan and Alanna successfully manages to hide her gender for 7 years in order to become a knight of the realm.
The first two books Alanna: The First Adventure*, and In the Hand of the Goddess follow her training to become a knight. The first book introduces us to her world and her years as a Page, and the second one follows her years as a Squire to Prince Jonathan who has discovered she is a girl and helps her to keep that secret.
We also discover in these two books that Alanna has been touched by the hand of the Goddess, which brings a wonderful mythology to the story. Throughout the series Alanna will do things that were previously thought impossible, find things that have been hidden for centuries, wield power over things nobody else could control, and generally surprise people at every turn. Despite being much smaller than the other pages and squires, she becomes one of the strongest amongst them. And it is she who finally uncovers the identity of someone trying to take the throne, following her Ordeal of Knighthood.
The third book The Woman Who Rides Like a Man* follows a newly knighted Alanna as she leaves the capital city after her gender has been revealed. She travels to the Bazhir home in the desert and becomes the Shaman for one of the tribes. And in the final part of the series Lioness Rampant*, Alanna must face the challenge of finding the Dominion Jewel, which will help to save the land from a powerful sorcerer.
The series as a whole takes Alanna from a child through to adulthood, with all that this brings with it such as changing bodies and developing romantic feelings for others. So even though the series is mostly a fantasy world of chivalry and magic, there are so many things within it that young girls can relate to. And the relationships Alanna develops with the Prince, the King of the Thieves, and one of her teachers who becomes like a father figure to her, are all so beautifully detailed.
The Immortals (Tortall)
The Immortals* series is the first one that I read (the title “Wild Magic” capturing my attention when I spotted it on my sister’s bookcase), and remains my all-time favourite series. It follows Daine, an orphaned teenager who leaves her home and gets a job working at the palace, where her unusual wild magic is discovered and nurtured by Numair, one of the most powerful mages in the land.
The first book, Wild Magic*, introduces us to Daine and how she came to be looking for work after her family were killed by bandits. She had no idea that she had wild magic, and thought she was crazy as she could speak to the animals and even became part of a pack of wolves at one point following the deaths in her family. Numair reassures her that she is not crazy and begins training her in the use of her very special kind of magic. The book follows Daine as she comes to terms with the power that she wields.
We are also introduced to the immortals in this first book, creatures who do not die unless they are killed in battle, which had been banished from the Mortal Realms centuries ago but are suddenly appearing again. Some are a threat, like the Stormwings who feed on the spoils of war, but some turn out to be helpful, like the dragon who fights for Tortall at the end of the first book.
The second book, Wolf Speaker*, takes us to meet the wolf pack that Daine had spent time with previously, as they come to her for help when their home is being destroyed by mining. Whilst they are helping the wolves, Daine and Numair discover a threat to Tortall and must work with the local animals and new immortal allies to uncover the plot and save the land. Daine and Numair end up being separated for half of this book, and so we see just how strong and resilient Daine can be as she works without her mentor.
The third book, Emperor Mage*, brings us face to face with the leader of Carthak who is suspected as the man behind letting the immortals into the Mortal Realms. Emperor Ozorne was a one-time friend of Numair’s, however Numair had to flee Carthak when Ozorne had threatened his life. So the stakes are high as the Tortallan delegation travel to Carthak to try and sign a peace treaty. Daine, warned to be on her best behaviour, struggles to follow that request as Carthak’s patron Goddess, the Graveyard Hag, decides to use her as a vessel for her power, giving Daine new skills she does not like at all and putting her right in the middle of things.
The final book in this series, The Realms of the Gods*, sees Daine and Numair being whisked to the Divine Realms to save them from a foe they could not beat. Here Daine finally gets to meet her father and sees her mother, who has also become a lesser God. We begin to finally see who has been behind everything that has happened over the previous three books, realising the Ozorne was simply a pawn in someone else’s grand plan. And Daine must finally deal with her own prejudices to make a stand for those she once thought of as evil.
The Protector of the Small (Tortall)
Set after the Immortals War, The Protector of the Small series follows Kel, the first female page since Alanna. This has been a long time coming, and even though Alanna becoming the King’s Champion made it possible for girls to train as knights, nobody had previously chosen to do so. Even now, Kel has to face a lot of prejudices, including having to complete a probation year to prove that girls can cope with the training.
This is a great series because although it follows another female knight in training, there are so many differences between the challenges Alanna faced and those that Kel does. Alanna had to hide her identity, but that also gave her certain protections against prejudice. Kel doesn’t have to hide who she is, but she does have to prove herself more than Alanna did. And given that many people believe that Alanna only managed it because she was touched by the Gods, there are a lot of people who believe Kel will fail. There are also lots of people who want Kel to fail, making her life a misery at times. And yet she is determined to succeed, even if that means having to do so much more than her male year mates.
The first book, First Test*, introduces us to Kel, as she begins her training as a Page. Her family had just returned from years living in the Yamani Isles where she grew up learning how to defend herself, as well as how to hide her emotions. Both of these things aid her in many ways as she finds herself at the mercy of bullies and those who would have her fail and prove that girls cannot become knights. She even starts taking on the older pages who are bullying her year mates, getting into fights regularly. To Kel it is a matter of principle, and she will not rest until everyone is treated justly.
In the second book, Page*, Kel has proven herself worthy of continuing her training, although she still has battles with certain members of the nobility. It is in this book that we begin to really see how much Kel cares about others, as she takes on a maid and is appalled at how some of the other nobles treat commoners. She continues her training, trying to overcome her absolute fear of heights and prove that she will not let anything get in her way. At the end she risks everything to save her maid, when her life is threatened by those who would have Kel fail.
In the third book, Squire*, Kel is taken on by Raoul, Knight Commander of the King’s Own. Here she learns all about combat and leadership, as well as taking part in jousting tournaments where she is able to publicly show that a girl can be a knight just as well as a boy can. We also get to meet a terrifying new threat to the kingdom, in the form of giant killing machines. And when Kel faces her own Ordeal of Knighthood, the Chamber of the Ordeal tasks her with finding the man behind their creation.
In the final book of this series, Lady Knight*, Kel is given her first command to oversee a refugee camp. Tortall is now in the grips of war with Scanra, and Kel is tasked with protecting hundreds of refugees in a woefully prepared camp. She is desperate to go and find the man behind the killing machines, but cannot turn her back on those in need. So she begins teaching the refugees how to fight, given that her camp does not have anywhere near the number of soldiers it needs. Finally she gets to fulfil her destiny when she takes flight into enemy territory after the refugees are abducted. Doing so means going against express orders from her commanding officer, meaning she risks becoming a traitor of the realm, but she made an oath to protect the refugees and Kel cannot forsake them for anything.
The Circle of Magic (Circle)
The Circle of Magic* is the first series in the Circle universe, and follows four young mages as they discover they have unusual magic. Sandry, is a noble orphan whose magic is tied up in threads. Daja, a trader outcast following the death of her family, has magic with metal. Tris, a merchant whose family want nothing to do with her, has weather magic. And Briar, a street rat, has plant magic. They come together at Winding Circle, living in a small house called Discipline, where they learn how to control their magic with the help of four mentors, Lark, Frostpine, Niko, and Rosethorn.
I think this series is more suited for a slightly younger audience than the Tortallan universe is, just because the main characters are slightly younger and the events in the books take place over a few months rather than several years. This means there is less development of the characters going into adulthood and more on their developing friendship and powers.
Book one, Sandry’s book*, introduces us to the characters who all come from completely different backgrounds. Over the course of the book they begin to develop a begrudging understanding of each other, until at the end they find themselves trapped underground during an earthquake and Sandry has the ideal to weave their magics together. This bonds the four in a unique way, which we see develop further over the other books in the series.
Book two, Tris’s Book*, finds Winding Circle at danger from pirate attacks, and the four young mages are taught how to use their gifts to help the temple city fend for itself. Tris in particular uses the weather to help in a major battle, discovering the effects of such powerful magic in a sad and startling way.
Book three, Daja’s book*, follows the four as they travel through the land trying to protect it from the damage caused by drought. Daja unexpectedly creates a living vine of metal, which the Traders want to acquire. However to do so means they have to contact Daja, who is an outcast, bringing her back into a world she thought she’d never see again.
Book four, Briar’s book*, brings a plague to the city, and as plant mages Rosethorn and Briar find themselves right in the midst of trying to find a cure for it. Rosethorn herself contracts the disease, making the stakes that much higher for Briar and the other young mages. Will they find a cure in time?
This series follows Alanna’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Aly, who has grown up surrounded by legends. She is desperate to become a spy, like her father, but neither her mother or father want her to be at risk. But it seems as if fate has other ideas, as Aly ends up being captured by pirates and sold into slavery in the Copper Isles, where the local trickster offers her freedom for keeping a family alive. In doing so Aly becomes a spy as part of an underground rebellion.
In the first book, Trickster’s Choice*, we meet Aly at home in Tortall and see her frustrations as the limitations put upon her by her parents. When she is captured and sold as a slave, we begin to see how resourceful she is right from the start, including by making herself look like she’s more effort than it’s worth taking on as a slave. We also meet the Trickster God, Kyprioth, who has great plans for Aly.
The second book, Trickster’s Queen*, finds Aly spying for the rebellion, and trying to keep the future queen safe. This is a new world for Aly, and whilst she has grown up amongst spies she doesn’t have the resources her father had. She has to become very resourceful and deal with many unexpected challenges.
Beka Cooper: A Tortall Legend
Beka Cooper is set 200 years before Song of the Lioness, and introduces us to a whole new world within Tortallan history. It follows Beka, who is the ancestor of George Cooper, former King of the Rogues and eventual husband of Alanna. But unlike George, Beka is not of the Rogue but rather part of the law enforcement that keeps the Court of the Rogue and the people of Tortall in check.
The first book, Terrier*, follows Beka as she begins her training with The Dogs. Those in training are known as Puppies and go out on patrol with a pair of Dogs on shift. Beka is placed with two of the hardest Dogs, Goodwin and Tunstall, and quickly learns on her feet. Training is hard and not all Puppies survive, but Beka has street smarts having originally grown up in the poverty-striken slums before being taken in by the Lord Provost when she was 8 years old (having shown a determination to hold people to account even then). Eventually she helps to uncover who is behind the mass killings in the city, and it is somebody you least suspect.
The second book in the series, Bloodhound*, finds Beka as a fully-fledged Dog. She partners with Goodwin after Tunstall is injured and travels to Port Caynn, in search of where the counterfeit coins that have started to show up in Tortall are coming from.
In the final book in the series, Mastiff*, Beka partners with Tunstall as Goodwin moves into a new role. Together with Tunstall’s love, a female knight, they follow a trail to find the abducted young prince, led in part by a man called Farmer. However at almost every step of the way they are met by circumstances which lead Beka to believe that somebody is setting them up. Be prepared to be angry and/or deeply saddened when you discover who it is!
The Numair Chronicles (Tortall)
The Numair Chronicles are currently in production and so book one, Tempests and Slaughter*, is the only one that has been published so far. They follow the early life of Numair, as he trains as a mage in Carthak alongside Ozorne, who you may remember becomes the Emperor Mage in the Immortals series. At this point, Ozorne and Numair are friends, although it is interesting reading it when you know what the future holds for them both.
This book is a fascinating look into the development of one of the greatest mages, as he begins to discover his power and learn how to control it. I really enjoyed getting to know the younger, less confident Numair, and cannot wait to find out where this series goes. We are given some basic background hints within the Immortals series, but this is filling in all the blanks on one of the more interesting characters within the Tortallan universe.
Other Books (I haven’t read yet)
Despite being a lover of Tamora Pierce since my teens, I only began reading the Circle universe books last year, so have yet to read the other series following Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar. I’ll add more details about these books once I have read them, but for now I’ll just note that there are The Circle Opens and The Circle Reforged* within this universe. There’s also Tortall: A Spy’s Guide*, and Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales* to explore.
WIN the series of your choice
Now that I have shared with you the different series, I want to give you the chance to win the series of your choice. I honestly love Tamora Pierce’s worlds so much, and want you to enjoy them too. So use the Gleam app below to enter and keep your fingers crossed. There is only one required entry option, that is to tell me in a blog comment which series you want to win. The other entry options are all optional. To help you out, the series you can choose from are:
- Song of the Lioness
- Protector of the Small
- The Circle of Magic
- Beka Cooper: A Tortall Legend
- Tempests and Slaughter
- The Circle Opens
- The Circle Reforged
- Tortall: A Spy’s Guide
- Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales
If you win, I will send you either the paperback or eBook version of the series (or standalone book) you choose, just let me know which you prefer.
Competition Terms & Conditions
- The competition is to win a book or series of books of your choice, taken from the list above. There is no cash alternative to this prize.
- The competition begins on Saturday 14th March 2020 and will run until Sunday 22nd March 2020, closing at 11:59pm.
- The winner will be chosen at random using the Gleam app.
- The winner’s first name only may be announced on social media and on this blog post.
- The winner will be contacted via email within a week of the closing date and they have 7 days to confirm their choice and their postal address for paperbacks or preferred email address for eBooks. If they do not confirm within this timescale a new winner will be chosen.
- The prizes will be ordered online and should arrive within 28 days. This will be confirmed via email once the prize has been ordered.
- The competition will be promoted across social media and competition sites, however all entries must be submitted via the Gleam app on this post.
- This competition is being run by Amanda Shortman of www.aspiraldance.com (who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org).