So I love Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series and mentioned that on Twitter, so a few people recommended Alanna to me. I know Amy from Tripping Over Books and Kristen from The Book Monsters both raved about the book, so I had to pick it up. I made it one of my reading assignment books, because I knew I would make sure to read it then. I loved it!
Alanna and her twin, Thom, want different lives than the one their father has planned. Really their father ignores them most of the time, but does decide that Thom will be a knight and Alanna will go learn to be a lady. He does not care that Thom wants to be a sorcerer and definitely would not let Alanna become a knight. He has never even thought about the magic that they both have and usually leaves the servants to deal with them. Alanna hatches a scheme that she and Thom will trade places. Thom will go with Maude, who has trained their magic and how is supposed to take Alanna to the convent, and Alanna will go with Coram, pretend to be a boy and try to become a knight. While practicing their magic, Alanna has a vision of a black city, which could be a bad omen for the switch, but instead pushes the two servants to support the switch. They do and Alanna is able to train as a page and to get the chance to be a squire when she turns 14. While at Duke Naxon's, Alanna trains with the Duke's son, the Prince, and other boys who quickly become her friends, well all of them, except Ralon. Ralon bullies her and Alanna knows to prove herself, she must defeat the bully. She will have to defeat him, an illness, and her own changing body to try to achieve her goal. She must find friends along the way, friends who will keep her secrets, if she can survive her years as a page.
Alanna is only around 11 at the start, so she is not yet growing into her female body, so it does seem plausible that she could pass for a boy. I loved how strong she was and how she faces her own battles. I also liked Jonathan, the Prince, and George, the Rogue, King of Thieves. The boys feel the need to protect her(him), but also let her try her own strength. I also like the magical elements, which we only really get a glimpse of at the end. Magic was the interesting part of the Circle books, so I am interested to see how it plays out in The Song of the Lioness series. I really enjoyed the world of Tortall and can't wait to get started on the next one in the series. It was really an easy and fast paced read. 5 cups of cocoa.