Finally, we’ve reached the final book of this series! After leaving her tribe in the desert, Alanna is out to find answers. She received a mysterious map from some dying lady and since she’s curious, she’s riding all over the place to figure out what it means. It turns out to be a map to the Dominion Jewel, a shiny rock that gives rulers control over the earth itself. Obviously, she decides to go after it. It’s an excellent way to scare your citizens into–ahem, I mean protect your borders.
The tricky part is getting there. Between Alanna and the Jewel stands a war-torn country. Instead of playing it safe and going around the war zone, Alanna decides to go right through it because why not? She bumps into the country’s princess who is on the run from her own father. Alanna decides to try to help said princess escape, but it’s not easy since the entire country is looking for her.
Back home in Tortall, Alanna’s own country, things aren’t going so peachy either. Remember that evil wizard Alanna duelled in book two? He really is the ultimate bad guy. He’s back from the dead. His magic stayed in the grave with him, but no one is really sure how innocent he is. Great job, guys. More messes for Alanna to clean up. Gosh, is no one else in this realm capable of doing things?
The Quills: 7/10
“I’m getting old,” [Alanna] whispered. “I should be excited about the coronation. I wish I knew for certain he’d be safe.”
You wanted to be a hero, Faithful said. Heros have responsibilities.
“I’m not sure I want to be a hero anymore,” Alanna sighed.
Then you are in trouble. That’s the one thing you’ll never be able to change.
– Tamora Pierce, Lioness Rampant
Like its predecessors, Lioness Rampant is a young adult medieval fantasy novel. This time with the Dominion Jewel arc, it kicks the fantasy part into high gear with more lore and magic than ever. I’m still iffy on whether this would be suitable for middle-graders or not. On the one hand, the writing is middle-grade level. On the other hand, Alanna does have sex with a dude she just met. I mean, it’s not graphic, but Alanna really isn’t a good role-model.
The writing hasn’t improved a whole lot with this novel. I’ve read some of Tamora Pierce’s newer books and the writing is great, which is why I’m riding it out for now. However, I’d still have liked to see some improvement in this novel, considering how clunky the rest of the series is. Unfortunately not.
There is a lot of world-building and mythology in this novel, which is great. It gives the world a more robust, hearty feeling. The world feels larger and rounder because of the different terrains, peoples, and magics.
It’s interesting that the antagonist has been repeated again. This gives the series a lot more time to build up his character. We know him pretty well by now, and boy is he evil. But he’s not just evil; he’s smart. That’s good because flat, pure evil is boring. I say good because he’s not great; he’s still very much a caricature of an evil guy.
The plot of this novel is still very simple and linear. Go find the meaning of the map. Go find the Jewel. Go home. There is a bit of a subplot concerning the warring country, but it’s not huge and just repeats the already very loud themes of sexism and girl power.
The Roses: 7/10
I liked this novel more because of the world-building, but even less because of the bed-hopping. C’mon Alanna, I’ve known who I want you to marry since book one, and it’s fairly obvious that’s who you’re going to choose. Stop with the meaningless affairs.
But that’s just me.
I really enjoyed the subplot with the war zone and the different peoples they came across along their journey. I did think some parts of it were really contrived, though, so it wasn’t a total win.
Furthermore, there was a large peak in tension in the very middle of the book. Then the novel lost steam for a while. I found that a bit weird, and it made the book drag along in the middle for me, but maybe that’s just my own preference. Besides that, there is something I absolutely have to add: the “boss battle” was almost pathetic. I was quite disappointed because the novel was building up to a really big climax. At least the final conclusion was touching.
Conclusion: This book ramps up the magic and mayhem, but not so much the writing quality. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll enjoy the new parts of the world and the return of our familiar antagonist.