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Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, Book 1)

Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce Song of the Lioness is a series of fantasy novels written for middle grade readers. I am clearly not the target audience, but I do read a great deal of young adult/middle grade fiction. These books, as a whole, just don't do it for me.

Alanna: The First Adventure tells the tale of Alanna, a girl who trades places with her twin brother. He goes off and studies to be a sorcerer, while Alanna takes his place in training to become a knight. In order for this to happen, she must change her name to Alan and conceal her identity as a girl. Although this isn't a new idea, it's an interesting plot, and it was enough to get me started.

My biggest problem with this book was the characterization. Just because a book is written for younger readers doesn't mean that the characters can't feel like real people. The characters in Alanna are all too familiar. Alanna is the spunky heroine who is just a little bit too perfect - she's an excellent knight, and she also has a gift for magic. In spite of trying to hide her identity, several boys manage to suss out her true identity and (naturally) fall in love with her.

The other characters are interchangeable, with the exception of Sir Myles (a scholar knight and Alanna's mentor) who I quite liked. The prince was noble and prince-ly, and the the rogue was rogueish (but not actually bad, of course!)

The story meanders to the end, when suddenly a plot appears. The Black City was a really interesting idea, but I felt it was all over too quickly.

I was interested enough in this book to give it 3 stars. I did go on to read the other books in the series, which really went downhill for me (I probably won't bother reviewing them.) This is not a series I would recommend to a young reader - the ideas are good, and I approve of the message of female empowerment, but there are better choices out there.