By: Tamora Pierce
What a whirlwind ending to one of my new all-time favorite fantasy series (and series in general). Honestly so much happened and I thought it was all magnificent. I'm really sad to be leaving Alanna and her friends (which is part of why I put off finishing the last book). But I'm contented with how it ended.
So many characters in this one, yet the wonder of it all was that all the names never got confusing!
Alanna: She's such a fantastic character. At some point she stops being a character and becomes a person and that's really the true measure of a book. I appreciated every time she was allowed cry and still be a warrior. Even at things like a compliment from her former teacher or reuniting with Myles, George, and Jon.
Another of my favorite aspects of Alanna's personality was how, even at the end when she's done all of these amazing things, she was always humble (and not fake modesty either). She always believed in the worth of others to do important jobs. I love she truly wasn't the most powerful or the most honorable of the characters, she never became the special snowflake of the bunch. She always remained herself and yet managed to do awesome things.
I absolutely loved the scene where Alanna tried on the dress and had to defend that choice to Liam. She made the perfect argument for it and explained why it is not a bad thing to want to be feminine and a warrior. I love that Alanna has become a champion for that idea. That's a huge part of what these books are about and I've never seen that topic addressed so frankly in a book. It is not an oxymoron to want to be a strong woman and it does not mean that you have to push aside all femininity.
I love that Alanna inspired loyalty. If you think about it, she had so many people, truly important people, rally around her because they saw her importance and her fierceness.
George: Oh honey. He's one of my favorite characters ever. He's loyal and sincere and witty and AGH. So much love. You just know I was rooting for him to end up with Alanna. Sure, he wasn't in the beginning of the book much, but when he showed up he made it worth the wait. I love that he accepted Alanna and Liam without bitterness or cruelty. He knew Alanna and that she was entitled to make her own decision. He was still there for her as a best friend. I loved that.
I love that he's this King of Rogues and a great knife-fighter (great enough to beat Alanna consistently) and yet he's so humble.
The depth to which he understands Alanna is truly touching. I saw that constantly in his interaction with and thoughts of her. But it is especially exampled in this quote from George,
"I try not to ask the impossible of her, Mother. She's not a lass who waits at home for her man."
and also this one,
"She's done it, he thought. My darlin's made them pay attention and dance to her tune."
and the fact that George was the only one who didn't mind when Alanna cut her hair really short again. I think of the three romantic interests in the books, George is the only one who was fully able to grasp all of Alanna's personality and understand them as though they made up one person. Liam was learning to, but he never quite got there. And Jonathan had trouble understanding that both her sides made up one woman.
Liam Ironarm: At first I was wary of him, but in the end I really liked him. He was brave and strong and honorable and I understand why him and Alanna loved each other. But I also understand why they didn't work, and I'm glad that was addressed. His ending to the story was how I figured it would have to work out, but I was sad when it did. He really was so similar to Alanna in so many ways and that was why it was really interesting to see them interact and see how they reacted to each other.
Jonathan: It was so wonderful seeing him finally grow up into being king. The thing is that he's always had what it took to be a great king. I think all the power that he collected from the Bazhir and his Gift and the Crown and the Jewel were just proof of that, rather than the source of it. He's been groomed for this responsibility. I mean, you really have to understand kingshipto say something like this,
"Of all my subjects, I am the one least able to break the law."
Myles and Eleni: YES. This was brilliant. I loved them together especially because they both deserve to have someone special in their life. I really liked the detail during the final fight that Myles was actually a fantastic fighter as well as a scholar. And Eleni fighting with the thread was so kick-butt.
Thayet: So awesome! I love that she didn't let her evident beauty define her or her worth.She was a fighter and an intellect and brave enough to seek her own future. I wish we'd seen more of her, but I appreciated her for Jonathan and I think she would make a great queen.
Thom: I knew that his ambition was not going to lead him to a good place, but I didn't expect to feel so terrible for him. He surely reaped what he sowed, but it was so sad to watch. I wish that he and Alanna had got more time together during their training, as that might have prevented it all.
Gary, Raoul, Alex: I also loved seeing where their paths took them while Alanna was off adventuring. With the exception of Alex (who is a stupid jerk), I thought their jobs were perfect for them. As Alanna said, Gary needed responsibility to keep his feet on the ground and Raoul made a great leader.
Faithful: NOOOOO. I am so sad. So very very sad. I went back and reread that section multiple times to make sure I wasn't misreading it. He was one my favorite characters. He always kept Alanna alert to why she was acting the way she was acting. But I suppose at some point she had to lose her conscience and start acknowledging those things on her own.
Coram: I have so much love for him! He stands by Alanna to the very end. I loved when he accepted George and when he became friends with Liam for Alanna's sake. And him and Rispah are adorable.
Claw: How could I not guess who he was? As soon as it was said I smacked my face repeatedly (especially because I marathoned the books). I love that even when he's this big rogue guy, he's still sort of incompetent and cowardly.
Roger: Just when you thought we were over him. He showed once again that he is actually really clever when it comes to evil plots, but he never fully estimated Alanna or Jonathan. And that's why he was ultimately defeated.
The themes and values of the other books were definitely held up and defined in this book. The women fought, and helped win, the battle. They were all different and smart and interesting. They made their own decisions and led their own fates.
"People like you change the world; a smart man keeps track of such folk."
"All her life she'd planned to be a knight-errant, roving the world to do great deeds. But now she was learning that such a life included periods of boredom, riding through country-side that seldom changed. Not every village had a cruel overlord; few crossroads were held by evil knights."
"Just because you're born to be a king doesn't mean you have the will for it."
"I just wondered why you feel you have to be all warrior or all woman. Can't you be both?"
"Surely I didn't think I could beat an army single-handed!"
"You still do."
"I'm female...Why can't I wear a dress without you deciding I want to give up everything I am."
"But isn't that always the way when folk plot to steal power? The innocent get hurt."
"That's a pretty dress. Are you wearing it for anyone in particular?"
"Yes," she snapped. "Myself."