I nagged my Dad to track down the rest of the books in the quartet (this was before Amazon, and it took months!) and watched Alanna grow and change and become a woman. She falls for the handsome prince, but, instead of the ‘happy ever after’ that I was used to, she turns down his marriage proposal because it isn’t right for her. She doesn’t want to be tied down to the first boy she kissed even if he is ridiculously handsome and it would mean she would be a queen! No, she wants to go on continuing to be awesome and independent. She goes into the world, has adventures, saves princesses, gets wicked good at martial arts and eventually, after a few love affairs, chooses a man who will support her career! Now that is a role model!
And Alanna isn’t pretty, she isn’t tall, she doesn’t have flowing hair or a heaving bosom. In fact she is short and stocky with muscle, with cropped ginger hair and a bosom that is normally bound under layers of bandage. Her beauty is in her strength, her fierceness, her power, and her values. And these values were reflected in the whole of Tortal, within the way things worked, with the good people that surrounded her. They seemed like my kind of people.
All young people (girls and boys) need some Tamora in their lives.
Every issue we write a letter to an author that has inspired and influenced us. In our first ever holdfast, Laurel tells Tamora Pierce about how she has had a key role in shaping her love of reading.
Dear Tamora Pierce
This is a letter I have been thinking about writing to you for 20 years. When I was nine years old, a family friend gave me a book to bring on holiday with me. At the time I was a little dubious as to the value of such a gift, but (thank you dad) my dad insisted on packing it anyway.
I began to read it on the plane, and from the first sentence, I was transfixed. I read it in two days, which, for my nine-year-old self, was a pretty impressive feat. (This impressive feat soon became the norm thanks to you). I consumed this book. The word consumed is no exaggeration. It felt as though the words nourished me, filling me with their sense of goodness, of rightness.
This book was ‘Alanna, the first adventure,’ by you, Tamora Pierce. There was something about this story that resonated with me, at a level I couldn’t comprehend when I was nine, but still felt profoundly. It wasn’t the big things about the book that made me fall in love with it, with the people, with Tortal. It wasn’t the fact that there was a girl who pretended to be a boy in order to become a knight (although this of course, was intensely cool). It was about who that girl was, what she stood for, and how she achieved all that she achieved.
Growing up on Dartmoor (without any neighbours) I spent many hours roaming the moors, hoping to be sucked through a portal into Tortal. I even had my mum sew me a cloak that I would wear just in case this actually happened, so that I would blend in when I got there. (But don’t tell anyone that, it’s a bit embarrassing.) Anyway, as the years passed, and I realised with genuine disappointment that this was never going to happen, I searched for that portal in other ways.
From you Tamora, followed Marrion Zimmer Bradley (and then anything I could get my hands on about the Arthur Legends), Diana Wynne Jones, Anne McCaffrey and the dragon riders of Pern, Robin Hobb with her live ships (I could go on and on).
I discovered this wonderful thing called ‘Fantasy.’ If I found this section of a book shop, there was a very good chance I would find something I would love.But nothing could eclipse the feeling of excitement that would fill me when I could lay my hands on one of your books I had not yet read. I opened the book and it felt like coming home. I could (and still can) trust you to create girls who I wanted to be – and for that to not make me miserable! It wasn’t like looking despairingly at glossy magazines and wishing to be like those perfect, unreachable women. With all of my favourites, whether it be Alanna, Daine, Kel, Daja or Beka, I see pieces of them that I can realistically aspire to.
And this feeling has never left me. Still, if I feel a bit down I open one of your books and am enveloped in a feeling of well being.
I just really wanted to say thank you, Tamora, for opening the world that has dominated my life ever since, for opening the door to fantasy fiction. You gave me not only Tortal, but all the worlds of fantasy, and I have never looked back.
'It wasn’t like looking despairingly at glossy magazines and wishing to be like those perfect, unreachable women.'
Is there an author that has inspired you, whose books involve animals, beasts or creatures in some way? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with 100 words on this author, and we may contact you to write your 'Letter to...' in the next issue!
Did you enjoy this article? Please donate so we can pay our talented contributors.