The Song of the Lioness series) (four volumes*) is an ‘oldie’, the first volume of this series was published in 1983. That makes it a bit of a classic and I can see why. Many elements that we now consider quit normal or even cliché are present, like magic. That has become quite mainstream after Harry Potter, but that wasn’t the case in the 1980’s so it must have been quite novel and revolutionary at the time. Also, the main character Alanna is certainly a role model in some aspects for girls, though not so much in relationships I might add.
Alanna of Trebold is the man character of this fantasy series, a girl who wants to be a boy and disguises herself as one (‘Alan’)in order to train as a knight. She makes many friends, including Prince Jonathan whose knight she becomes, and George, the king of thieves. The setting is the fictional kingdom of Tortall and the time is not clear, but it hints in many ways of medieval times.
The series consist of four books, but I liked the first volume the best. In this first book Alanna is quite young, the story starts when she is just 11 and she’s still very innocent and naïve. In the later books she grows into a young woman and even though women were considered grown up at a much younger age, Alanna taking lovers was a bit unnecessary for me. That’s also because there’s actually little romance, although there is certainly friendship and love.
As always, I look at a few things when reviewing non-Christian teen fiction. The first is language and this is one of the ‘cleanest’ books I have read so far in my Reviews of the Top 100 of Teen Fiction (it ranks number 50). Swearing is mentioned, but rarely shown and the sexual references (Alanna has multiple lovers in the series and ultimately marries one of them) are very vague and non specific.
Aside from the premarital sex (and can I just mention that the Twilight Series for all its faults is actually one of the very few young adults books in which there is no premarital sex between the main characters?), the main issue in The Song of the Lioness Series is the magic and the underlying religious system. There are multiple gods mentioned, including ‘The Goddess’ who helps and protects Alanna. There are many spells, enchantments, healing powers, etc.
Anyone who objects to magic in the least will have a big issue with this series. I’m not against magic on principle (I loved the Harry Potter series for instance), but I have to admit this was a bit too ‘extreme’ for me, especially with the religious undertones. Unlike some other books that contain magic, there seemed to be a very unchristian undertone that made me uncomfortable. It’s the main reason why I would not recommend this series to students.
* The series consists of Alanna: The first Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman who rides like a Man and Lioness Rampant.