If you have read my early reviews (look at me, talking as if I had been doing this for years) you may know that, despite being a little too simplistic and predictable for my tastes, I loved Alanna: The First Adventure. Following the best of my traditions, I was a little bit distrustful about the second installment of the series because I had heard it was even more simplistic than the last, that’s the reason why it took so long for me to read it. I can assure you, dear readers that I have seen the face of this second installment and the Song of the Lioness quartet is still as enjoyable as the first day we met. (and I am still blaming Tamora Pierce for eating up all my free time with her book)

This review contains spoilers of Alanna the First Adventure.

IHG

Strong Points: The characters, the setting, the writing style..

Weak points: too simplistic sometimes.

In the hand of the Goddess, written by Tamora Pierce, the story starts one year after Alanna and Jonathan defeated the Ysandir in the dark city. Under the guise of Alan, the girl is now the squire of the prince and her Ordeal, the process the initiates must pass to become knights, is drawing near. This soon will become the least of Alanna’s worries for greater problems threaten the kingdom’s stability: from the outside a great army of turanians has been prepared to attack Tortall and every knight and squire is being sent to meet this threat; but there is a second internal threat only known to Alanna, the ambitious Roger of Conté is getting ready to strike against his cousin Jonathan, and take Tortal’s throne once and for all.

Alanna surprises us again for her depths and her internal conflicts, showing us that she happens to be a strangely complex character for a youngster’s novel. She is not a perfect model that some writer thought could serve as an example for children to live their life in a certain way, she is human being, a celebration to living your life however you seem fit but always accepting the responsibility that comes with that decision. As every human being she is burdened by indecisions, lack of self-esteem and doubts about herself and everything that surrounds her and that makes Alanna a rich and interesting character full of life that the readers will enjoy and with whom they will sympathy.

But when it comes to characters the greatest surprise is the way that some of them have acquired certain depth compared with the first book. Sir Myles has become even more likeable than before showing us certain complexity which goes beyond the paternal figure we have already seen or, better said, it goes deeper into the role. Tamora Pierce shows us a kind man who has learned of his limitations and the limitations of others, but also a clever man who knows how to play with the image he gives to the world. Jonathan and George Cooper go beyond their respective roles as friends to become two young men torn between the love they bear to Alanna as a woman and the friendship their beard to Alan the squire, in particular Jonathan becomes a personification of the storm of feeling that a teenager may feel when he is stroked by love (we have all been there, god knows we have all been there) and that makes his character a lot deeper, being in constant conflict with himself and Alanna.

The world that Tamora Pierce has managed to create with the Song of the Lioness is simple, but at the same time wonderful and full of magic. The society the author has built is like a well-oiled machine, it moves perfectly, there are not contradictions between the books and no weird rules destined to make the world more complex just for the heck of it. The kingdom of Tortall happens to adapt perfectly to the tone of the novel and, besides that apparent simplicity, it manages to pull the readers inside the pages making them become involve with the novel.

While the characters and the setting are the strongest point of the novel, there is something else that keeps you reading until the end: Tamora Pierce’s impeccable writing style. Not only are her descriptions simply amazing, but the language used to write this book is fluid and easy to read. It doesn’t feel simple; it is not a language that you would consider for younger audience as soon as you start reading, but she uses is with such normality, without attempts of showing off or creating a complex composition, than the effect invites you to go on reading.

Probably the greatest fault of this novel is its simplicity, but I don’t mean simplicity as a lack of complexity, which sometimes in this book is alluring, I mean it as a lack of depth and development. The book tries to tell too many things in too few pages which results in starting narrative arcs which suddenly finish without having been explored. The character of Delia of Eldorne is sadly underplayed, taking into account that at the beginning it looks as if it is going to be a central piece of conflict; the turanian war and the turanian commander Hilam of Keir are also underexploited, leaving a sour taste in the readers mouth when everything is said and done. Finally, some internal conflicts are not used to its fullest potential and are limited to two or three pages and then forgotten as the author moves on.

While sometimes it leaves you wanting for more, In the Hand of the Goddess is an amazing book aimed to young readers which I whole heartedly recommend for those parents or elder family members who want their youngsters to start reading and to everyone who loves fantasy.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

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