Study Guide

Alanna: The First Adventure

By Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure Introduction

She's the Man. As You Like It. Mulan. Put a girl in pants and cross-dressing hilarity ensures. Right?

Sometimes. And sometimes, what ensues is more like … subterfuge and lies.

Take Alanna: The First Adventure. Alanna of Trebond is a noble-born girl in the fantasy kingdom Tortall. Noble-born: pretty cool. Not so cool: desperately wanting to train to be a warrior instead of learning to be a polite wife-to-be. (Yeah, we're down with that.) Luckily for her, her identical twin brother Thom is just as pissy about being sent off to warrior training, so they forge some letters and switch places. (No, he's not jealous of Alanna's wife-to-be training—he wants to go to the convent where Alanna's headed, where they'll train him to be a sorcerer.)

Presto-chango, Alanna becomes "Alan" and heads off to the castle … where she immediately gets picked on, teased, and majorly hazed by the castle's resident mean boys. Only Alanna's dedication to her training—and loyalty to her friends—help her keep her head above water while she navigates the stormy seas of royal intrigue. (Okay, enough with the watery language.)

Does this sound like the best thing since Harry Potter? Back up about fifteen years, and you'd be right. Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983, translated into a bunch of languages, and then followed by three more books. Author Tamora Pierce won multiple awards, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement.

And you know we really like? It's a Young Adult fantasy novel without a love triangle in sight. Man, the '80s really were better.

What is Alanna: The First Adventure About and Why Should I Care?

Take Mean Girls.

Set it at a castle.

Make them boys.

Give them swords.

Yeah, this is going to go great. Bullies administering beatings? Check. Hazings? Check. Being punished by authority figures? Check. Alanna has it all. But with magic! And mysterious omens, and horses, and stuff.

Even if you're not keen to relive those awkward middleschool years, Alanna tells the story of a kid who wants nothing more than to be accepted and loved for who she is, and that's something we can all relate to. But at the same time Alanna is just trying to fit in, she has to conceal a core part of her identity—a part that could be really dangerous to conceal. Imagine if you found out that your best guy friend was actually—gasp—a girl, or the other way around. You'd be hurt, betrayed, a little (or a lot) weirded out, right?

Now imagine if you had a sword.

In other words, Alanna is risking serious physical and emotional harm with her disguise. Throughout the whole book, she's completely stressed out about having to deceive her friends—and yet she rises above that fear and pain to prove her loyalty to her friends and her country. Girls rule.

Alanna: The First Adventure Resources

Websites

The Internet Comes to Tortall
Check this out to see what the author of the Alanna books is up to.

Ysandir What Now?
Tripping over your tongue? Tamora Pierce has a handy pronunciation guide for you here.

Wiki: The First Adventure
Don't cite it in your research paper or anything, but this Wiki is devoted specifically to the works of Tamora Pierce and maintained by her fans, so we're guessing that it's pretty accurate.

Articles and Interviews

Choose Your Choice
You know you've made it as a writer when you're interviewed in The Atlantic. Learn Tamora Pierce's thoughts on birth control in fantasy lands, the sacrifices required of female characters (like Alanna, duh), and more in this Atlantic interview.

Too Much, Too Soon
In this one, she tells us that she can't stand to look back at the Alanna books because she feels like she tried to cram too much in. Whoops!

Video

Write the Right Way
Curious about what the author of Alanna does before sitting down to write every day? You'll find your answers here.

I am Lioness, Hear Me Roar
Check out this nifty fanmade trailer for the Song of the Lioness Series. Fans are awesome.

Casting Director: You
You won't know all the characters if you've only read the first book, but it's worth a view just to see who these fans cast as Duke Roger.

Audio

Tamora Talks
According to Pierce, she writes the books she had always wanted to read as a kid.

Images

The original U.S. cover for Alanna: The First Adventure
This is the copy Shmoop had in our childhood library.

Purple Hat Optional
Here's another cover for Alanna: The First Adventure—this one with a pimpin' purple hat.

Polymathic
Here's a Thai cover for Alanna: The First Adventure. We can't read it, but dig her short haircut.

When Horses Fly
Here's a Japanese cover, and same deal: it's cool to see how Alanna is imagined in another culture's translation.

Did We Miss Any?
Here's a gallery of all the cover art for all of Pierce's novels. Get some snacks; it's be a while.