Editors Note: Delphine Imbert of France is a former GeekMom contributor. She enjoyed Tamora Pierce’s Tortall stories so much, she couldn’t resist submitting this article.
One always needs more female leads in fantasy. Especially great role models for girls in good, solid stories. Tamora Pierce‘s books do the trick, and so much more than that.
Pierce’s Tortall series’ (Tortall is the name of the main imaginary realm of the setting) include : The Song of the Lioness quartet, The Immortals quartet, The Protector of the Small quartet, and the Trickster series. The Trickster series is only two books, but the novels are much longer (because J.K. Rowling has now taught us that kids are ready to read long books, as the author herself explains).
They can be recommended for every geek girl (and boys, and grown-ups, since I’m a grown-up, now that I think about it) for at least six reasons:
- They’re good fantasy stories, if not exceptionally original. These are mostly coming of age stories, but they include swordplay, magic, nomadic tribes, fabled artifacts, wolves, evil wizards, wars, dragons and other supernatural creatures (with an interesting take on griffins), gods, political intrigues, and all the traditional ingredients of the genre.
- The main characters of the four series are all very different from each other. Even if Protector of the Small may seem a similar concept to Song of a Lioness (a young girl wants to train for knighthood), Kel is not Alanna at all. The other series have a mage and a spy for heroines.
- The main characters aren’t the sole strong female characters in the books. That’s a very important point. Too often is the heroine an exception among a world of stupid, giggly girls. That’s not the case with Tamora Pierce’s books. The four heroines are surrounded by a cast including other strong, interesting women, who are not necessarily (and actually very rarely) their antagonists.
- Male characters are interesting and important, too. That’s not original, for sure, but deserves to be said.
- Another very important element: The books offer a very sane take on romance and sexuality, in that the heroine doesn’t have to pick her “one and true love” as a teen and marry him (even when it’s a handsome prince). Because, you know what, mostly we don’t. People change a lot between the teen years and adulthood, so it’s okay that their love interests change, too. Some of the heroines have sex before marriage and that’s not an issue. Tamora Pierce even imagined a magical birth control with anti-pregnancy charms, that’s affordable, too. And one of the heroines doesn’t even end the series involved in a relationship at all. Romance is part of the books, as it is a part of life, but not the main issue. How refreshing!
- I’ve mentioned gender issues, but the books also deal with other educational ethical matters. The Protector of the Small quartet, as its title suggests, gives priority to the traditional but often overlooked role of knights. What is it to protect the small, the humble, the powerless? Is it really important for most knights, when it doesn’t bring glory and often costs a lot? Killing is present, of course, since the setting is a medieval one and some of the main characters are warriors (or spies, who also have to kill, sometimes in an even nastier fashion) but Tamora Pierce doesn’t deal lightly with it. Killing isn’t easy, isn’t pleasant, and often has a cost for the killer.
I hope I’ve convinced you. I enjoyed the books a lot as recreational summer reading, but I’m sure teens and pre-teens will find a lot more in them. Things they need, things we all need, to be reasserted again and again, especially about what it is to come of age as a girl. A geek girl.