Alanna is now Prince Jonathan’s squire, and he knows her secret. What he doesn’t know is that his obviously evil cousin, Roger, is plotting diabolical things. Alanna begins to uncover Roger’s evil plots but he has an eye on her and is determined to get her out of the way. By any means necessary.
As if Alanna doesn’t have enough to worry about, trouble is brewing between Tortall and their neighbouring country. Before she can say “shit,” it hits the fan and war is declared between King I-sit-and-let-my-brothers-rule-for-me and King I-want-peace-so-much-I’ll-roll-over-and-beg-for-treats. (Catchy names, right?) When Roger is made the commander of the attacking force, Alanna wonders if she, or any of her friends, will survive this war.
The Quills: 5.5/10
Alanna was left alone with her thoughts. She kept remembering the men she tried to heal, with their terrible wounds and the glazed look of pain in their eyes. She remembered every cut, every broken bone, until her stomach began to roll. She couldn’t make herself think of anything else.
-Tamora Pierce, In the Hand of the Goddess
This book begins with a lot of recapping of the previous one and has a really awkward “You must learn to love!” section at the beginning. But, once you get past the first chapter, you can tell the writing has improved since the previous book. It’s not yet great, but it’s getting there. This book still has those awkward phrases, but it’s not as bad as the first book in this series.
Like Alanna: the first Adventure, this novel is a young adult/middle grade medieval fantasy narrated in third person. The book does tell you vaguely that Alanna starts sleeping with a guy, so this may not be suitable for lower middle grade anymore.
There is some nice character building in this book. Unfortunately, a lot of the characters are very vanilla. The bad guys are obviously bad, and the good guys are obviously good. This is one of the reasons I think this novel is more suited to middle graders. However, my favourite character (George) actually has more than one dimension to him, so it’s not all bad.
The world is still kind of vague. It doesn’t help that a random country is added, just so they can go to war. Oh, and everyone from that country is obnoxious; clearly, they are the bad guys. The desert area from the previous book is going to be making a comeback in the next part of the series, however, so hopefully, more world-building will be happening.
The Roses: 7/10
I liked this book a lot better than the previous one, provided I conveniently forget the awkward first chapter. Seriously, if some lady walked up to you in a forest and told you, “Go fall in love!” wouldn’t you be annoyed? Sure, she’s a goddess, but can’t she mind her own business? And doesn’t she have more important things to do than tell people to shack up with the prince next-door?
Alright, we’ll ignore the unfortunate chapter 1.
The plot makes sense and has high stakes. Some of the characters are rounding out nicely, and I really like them. Funny thing is, the ones I like most are the side characters.
While the writing isn’t the greatest, I’m a sucker for medieval things. I’m also willing to bet on improvement. Hopefully, the writing will steadily get better and book 4 will be a masterpiece.
Conclusion: If you enjoyed book 1, (or if you enjoy girls becoming kick-ass knights) make sure to read this sequel. It’s got better writing, better plotting, and better characterising. It’s still not super great, but at least now, it’s got “good” down.
By the way, if I disappear for the next week or two, don’t worry; I’m still alive. My computer, however, is absolutely dying on me, so I’m getting a new one. If it doesn’t arrive before my potato-computer implodes, I may miss a couple posts.