I love it when my favorite authors are publicly recognized for the excellence of their work! Congratulations to Tamora Pierce, who has won YALSA’s 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award for “her significant and lasting contribution” to YA literature. Ms. Pierce was honored for two of her Tortall series, “The Song of the Lioness” (Alanna) and “The Protector of the Small” (Kel).
It’s high time this award went to Ms. Pierce, whose books have delighted and empowered YA readers, particularly young women, for several decades. Ask many adult women who read fantasy to name the books that most influenced them as young readers, and many will name at least one of Pierce’s tales of two girls, Alanna (the Lioness) and Keladry (the Protector of the Small), who overcome prejudice and adversity to become knights. My own personal favorite is the Protector of the Small quartet (reviewed here). I admire Kel’s fierce sense of justice and determined resolve, I love her for her compassion and common sense, and I enjoy the humor of her interactions with her friends and mentors, especially Neil and Raoul of Goldenlake. She’s a terrific role model, not just for young women but for anyone of any age.
If you haven’t read Tamora Pierce’s Tortall novels, I urge you to try them. The Song of the Lioness is Pierce’s first book (I say that advisedly; she wrote it as a single book, but it was broken into four because at the time, editors believed young adults wouldn’t read a 600- or 800-page book). Alanna is a wonderful character, though I don’t love her as much as I do Kel or even Daine, the protagonist of the Wildmage series. To my mind, the series does reflect the author’s inexperience a bit, but the stories are engrossing nonetheless. Pierce followed The Song of the Lioness quartet with the four books of the Wildmage series, featuring Daine, a young shape-changing mage and her tutor and friend, Numair. The next series to be written was The Protector of the Small, followed by the two books in the Trickster series focused on Alanna’s daughter. Pierce’s most recent Tortall books are the darker, grittier Provost’s Dog novels, set several hundred years earlier than the other series; they follow the exploits of Bekka Cooper, a policewoman in a service reminiscent of the Bow Street Runners (and an ancestor of George Cooper, the Rogue in the Song of the Lioness quartet.)
Pierce has also written several quartets and associated books set in a completely different world. Published by Scholastic, the Circle of Magic series was originally aimed at a younger middle-grade audience, though later installments (The Circle Opens quartet and subsequent novels) have a more YA feel. I’d recommend the Circle of Magic quartet as a better choice for introducing younger readers to Tamora Pierce.