It’s the question that we library staff keep getting asked: “My son/daughter has read Harry Potter/Deltora Quest/ Rangers Apprentice (or some other fantasy novel that’s similar in story line). Can you recommend anything new that’s similar? My favourite answer to this question is author Tamora Pierce and her magical world of Tortall.
Set mainly in the fictional land of Tortall (that seems to be very similar in environment to that of Europe during feudal times) the first series set in this universe is called the Song of The Lioness. Centring on Alanna of Trebond, the series tells of her desire to be a knight despite her family wanting her to follow the tradition of noble born women being sent to the convent to learn how to be proper noblewomen and wives. Her twin brother, Thom, wants to further his magical Gift and become a sorcerer, despite the tradition of noble-boys being sent to become knights. So, the twins decide to switch. Thom forges a letter from their father so he can go to the temple to become a sorcerer and Alanna cuts of her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and changes her name to Alan so she can train as a knight. This quartet of books tells of Alanna’s experiences from starting out as a page to being knighted and the troubles that she has to go through to keep her gender a secret, including binding her chest to hide her curves, gaining a reputation for being intensely shy about her body to prevent the boys from discovering her secret, to falling in love. This series is a wonderful example of a powerful female main character and shows just how some of the challenges that woman have had to face for equality. (Following Alanna’s rise to Kings Champion, a law is passed in Tortall allowing women to train as knights).
Another series set in Tortall is the Immortals series and tells of 13 year old Veralidaine Sarrasri (Daine), who we first meet in Galla, an orphan who gains a job delivering ponies to Tortall for the Queen’s Riders. Daine has an affinity to animals including the ability to talk to and understand them and for them to understand her. Over the books in this quartet we see Daine’s character and abilities grow through her Wild Magic, guided by her mentor (and later lover) Numair Salmalin and the badger god. She also becomes guardian of the baby dragon Skysong, known as Kitten. In the final book it is discovered that Daine's Wild Magic is the result of her being the daughter of Weiryn, the God of the Hunt, making her a demigod, something that was never divulged to her by her mother.
Other series set in this land include Protector of the Small, starring Keladry of Mindelin, the first girl to follow in Alanna’s footsteps and legally become a knight without the need of disguise. Tricksters, which tells of Alanna’s daughter Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop (Aly) and her adventures in the Copper Isles, protecting the rightful heirs to the throne of the Copper Isles (on behalf of the Trickster god Kyprioth who is also traditionally the patron god the of the Copper Isles) Doing this for the god is her only way home to Tortall. The final series is the Beka Cooper series and pre-dates the Alanna series, being set some 200 years before the Song of the Lioness quartet and tells of Rebakah Cooper, ancestor to Alanna’s husband and her training to be a part of Tortall’s police force, the Provost’s Guard.
As can be seen by the descriptions that I’ve provided, Tamora Pierce centres her novels on strong female main characters, who go on to prove that they are equal to, and just as capable as the men they encounter. Although she uses other female leads, Alanna is clearly her favourite and could possibly be the authors favourite character as she is often mentioned in each of the series, either through her experiences or the characters interacting directly or indirectly with her.
Tamora Pierce appears not only in the teenage section, but also the junior section and is a great author to consider if you’re struggling to find books for someone between the ages of 10-14.