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The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the…

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, Book 3) (original 1986; edition 2011)

by Tamora Pierce (Author)

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4,047371,257 (4.03)77
Title:The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, Book 3)
Authors:Tamora Pierce (Author)
Info:Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2011), Edition: Reprint, 288 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fantasy, young adult

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The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (1986)



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I’m getting it out of the way up front: this is my least favorite installment in the Song of the Lioness quartet. 'This is some colonialist bullshit’ passed through my head a few dozen times in reading The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. Despite its more problematic aspects, I do like the novel, but if it was my entree to the series I would’ve bounced and never read the others.

The main issues lie in the treatment of the Bazhir, whose problematic portrayal I briefly touched on in my review of [b:Alanna The First Adventure|13831|Alanna The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)|Tamora Pierce|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388206270s/13831.jpg|1936544]. The Bazhir are a largely nomadic people (the only explicitly stated PoCs in the series, at this point) nominally living under the reign of Tortall (they’ve been ‘conquered,’ but frequent border skirmishes take lives on both sides) while remaining true to the governor of the Bazhir’s lone city, Persopolis (Ali Mukhtab, the Voice of the Tribes, the religious/governmental/magical leader of the Bazhir).

The Bazhir are highly patriarchal, and for pretty unspecified magical/religious/cultural reasons the women of the tribes wear veils and aren’t allowed to hold positions of power. This is where we get into some troublesome white savior territory. Alanna, through some crazy random happenstance, winds up as a member of one of the Bazhir tribes, The Bloody Hawk. She’s forced to kill their shaman because of Evil Magical Sword (made by now-deceased Evil Cousin Roger™, ‘cause we just can’t escape the shadow of that asshole) reasons. Then she can’t leave until she’s trained a replacement.

Luckily enough, the last shaman was too incompetent/greedy/what-have-you to train the three young people in the tribe who’ve demonstrated evidence of the Gift. Alanna has never wanted to use her Gift and is, understandably, hesitant to be in charge of teaching young people to handle theirs. To complicate things, two of her three charges are girls, and from a cultural perspective having a woman shaman is NOT DONE. This is pretty easily handwaved away by saying ‘well, the Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna, is already serving as the shaman. It’s a ridiculously easy change considering the generations of cultural stigma stacked up against the change. Her male student, Ishak, is an obnoxious young man who longs for power beyond his reach and is ultimately killed trying to get it. The entire apprentice/cultural change situation comes across like a weird feminist morality play.

Another issue in the narrative's treatment of the Bazhir is the choice of successor to Ali Mukhtab, the Voice of the Tribes. The Voice is a cultural, religious, and governmental leader. The position is traditionally passed down to a younger tribesman who's trained for years to take over the position. When the current Voice realizes he is dying (the Voice always gets to know when they’re going to die because reasons) he tells Alanna that Jonathan must come and learn the laws of the tribes so the Bazhir can finally be truly united with Tortall and, you know, peace and stuff. It all smacks of The White Man Shall Save Us from Ourselves and the way that Jonathan behaves when he arrives doesn’t help to remedy my feelings about the situation.

Prince Jonathan and Sir Myles aren’t easily welcomed by the Bazhir. Jonathan is forced to undertake the same wrestling challenge Alanna passed to become part of the tribe. Then Jonathan spends several weeks studying with Ali Mukhtab and doing his best to understand and bond with the other Bazhir. Behind the scenes, he’s behaving like a bit of a prat. He proposes to Alanna and when she tells him she has to think about it he assumes she’s being coy, despite the fact that it would be completely out of character for her to behave so. He spends his free time whining to Alanna about all the work he has to do, even though Ali Mukhtab is torturing himself and Alanna is exhausting herself keeping him alive long enough for Jonathan to learn Bazhir laws.

Jonathan also makes a lot of offhand comments and actions that are alarming: of course Alanna will no longer where her charm against pregnancy when they’re wed, he’s fully in his rights to order others to pack her things without her say so, Alanna’s well-meaning advice that certain people are trying to stir up trouble is treated with disdain. They part on bad terms. Alanna says she’s not ready and not what he needs in a queen. Jonathan spitefully brings up the way George looks at her (which leads to Alanna spitefully pointing out his affairs with court ladies) and her lack of femininity. He leaves in the night without saying goodbye and takes up with the next lady his parents parade before him without much thought for Alanna’s or Princess Josiane’s feelings.

On the brighter side, we get some lovely scenes between Alanna and both Myles and George. Myles, who accompanied Jonathan to the Great Southern Desert, formally adopts Alanna. She finally gets a father who loves and understands her, and she’ll have the means to support herself in her journeys without worrying about Thom or Trebond. After the desert, Alanna and Coram head to Port Caynn, where George is rooting out trouble amongst some of his thieves. Once there, Alanna and George come to an understanding in one of the most poignant scenes in the book.

“There’s plenty more fish in the sea than Prince Jonathan,” he told her softly. “And this particular fish loves you with all his crooked heart.”

Alanna snuggled close, lifting her face to his again. “I’m glad,” she said honestly. “I need to be loved right now. Kiss me again, please.”

“Oh no,” George said, drawing in a ragged breath. “If I kiss you again now, one thing will lead to another, and this isn’t the proper place for that sort of carryin’-on.”

“Then take me to a place that is,” she suggested. When he hesitated, she added, “I know what I’m doing, George. And it’s not just because Jon found someone else. This should’ve happened between us a long time ago.”

*cue millions of fangirl tears*

Despite how much I love the George/Alanna and Myles & Alanna portions of the book, the rest falls to mid-series syndrome.

There are half a dozen open-ended storylines (what the hell is Thom doing sapping people’s magic without consent? who’s the mysterious thief/possibly former noble trying to take George’s ‘throne’? is someone trying to raise Roger from the dead? what’s Jonathan doing with Princess Rando? where will Alanna go now? will the Bazhir actually be at peace with Tortall and follow Jonathan?) at the novel’s close. This could be more easily overcome if I wasn’t already put off by basically everything involved in the Bazhir storyline (racial, cultural, religious, and political differences aren’t easily dismissed or fixed by the appearance of a Strong White Female and her White Knight boyfriend) and Jonathan behaving like an ass for the entirety of the book.

Would recommend to: young readers new to or looking to expand their fantasy reading, fans of Tamora Pierce, readers who like sword and sorcery settings, and readers who like kickass heroines.

Would not recommend to: readers specifically looking for diversity, readers who prefer 1st person POV, readers who aren’t fans of fantasy, readers who are sensitive to haphazard portrayals of religious/racial/cultural groups, readers who can’t stand White Savior narratives, and readers who don’t like open-ended books. ( )
  kaytaylorrea | Mar 18, 2016 |
love this series!! ( )
  katieloucks | Feb 26, 2016 |
This one makes me wonder if I should have given the first two five stars instead of four.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Still loving this series. In this one, Alanna takes leave of courtly life and adventures down south in the desert, where she starts living among the Bazhir. She more fully embraces her magic and learns some hard lessons. Great book! ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 2016 |
Description: "Let her prove herself worthy as a man."

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Thoughts: Minus the tired old "exotic brown people" and "desert people" who withhold power from women stuff, this one was better. Pierce finally settled down to covering shorter time periods and included a bit more than the action scenes. Still too brisk for my real tastes, but I admit to being drawn into the saga of Allana enough to know I'll probably keep listening to the rest of this long series unless something significantly disappoints me.

I will say that I have a bit of irritation at Pierce's handling of Alanna's romances. I'm almost done with the next in the series and there is another romance pretty much tumbled into that has very little attention paid to it. What's the point of throwing Alanna into the bed of men if the romances receive very little narrative weight?

Rating: 3
Liked: 3
Plot: 2.5
Characterization: 3
Writing: 3
Audio: 3.5

http://www.librarything.com/topic/188600#5123938 ( )
  leahbird | Jul 20, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tamora Pierceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alvarado, TriniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heyer, MarileeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patti,JoyceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Pa, Ma, and Kim--
my own personal pride of lions--
And particularly to Pa,
who started me writing in the first place
First words
Alanna of Trebond, the sole woman knight in the realm of Tortall, splashed happily in the waters of an oasis, enjoying her first bath in three days.
"You are a terrifying creature," the Voice told her solemnly. "You do not take your place in your father's tent, letting men make your decisions. You ride as a man, you fight as a man, and you think as a man --"

"I think as a human being," she retorted hotly. "Men don't think any differently from women -- they just make more noise about being able to."

As Coram chuckled, Mukhtab said, "Have you not discovered that when people, men and women, find a woman who acts intelligently, they say she acts like a man?"

-- p.43
"Better that you die and become a legend. Legends force no one to change." (p.43)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0689878583, Mass Market Paperback)

"Let her prove herself worthy as a man."

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Alanna's journey continues...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:45 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Alanna adopteres af bazhirerne, et ørkenfolk i det sydlige Tortall, og bliver deres shaman. Samtidig er hun splittet i sin kærlighed til kronprinsen Jonathan og tyvenes konge Gergi.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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