Yup, I took precious time away from finishing Christmas Open House stuff to complete my Alanna of Trebond and Olau sketchy.
Tamora Pierce seems to have fallen out of fashion in Britain, and you don't see her stuff about as much as you did when I was a teen. I gather she's still very popular in America - a status she very much deserves. I can't say enough nice things about Tammy P. In a genre full of flat, generic characters and poor Middle Earth-rip-off settings, Tammy has always managed to create books that are full of life and humour and convincing detail. It's not that her stories are necessarily founded on ideas that have never been explored before - in fact, her two first series in particular are founded on almost folkloric bases: the girl who disguises herself as a boy to train for knighthood; the girl who can talk to animals etc.
It's that she fills these stories with characters who you care about - who can be petty and stupid sometimes, and who have fun, and who interact with each other like people really interact. If she's writing about a girl who runs with wolves, you can be sure that Tammy's done her homework and that the behaviour of the animals is based on solid research. As she has set more and more books in Tortall the land and its neighbouring countries have grown in depth and subtlety, and changed with the passage of the books timeline, in the way the best fantasy lands do. There's something of Terry Pratchett about Tammy's world-building. She's another writer who stops to think about how a magic-influened, pseudo-medieval city would actually work.
('The Healing In The Vine', one her none-Tortall books, must be pretty unique amongst fantasy novels, in that the meat of the story is the outbreak of an epidemic in the city, and follows the efforts of the characters to fight the disease and find a cure - it's a drama of research-magic. It's also a great read.)
But back to the point: this is Alanna, star of Tamora Piere's first quartet of novels. Actually, this series came second in my personal Tammy P chart to 'The Immortals' (the one with the talking-to-animals-magic) but that is not to say I didn't read and reread the Alanna stories and still turn to them now for some serious comfort-reading.
I'm happy with the picture, though I weakened and made Alanna look more feminine that I originally intended. I had meant for her to be about age 15 here, and thereby still disguised as a boy. But it works as well to think of this being fully-knighted Alanna, and so openly female. Despite myself, it goes against the grain to make a girl look too boyish. I do the same thing with Maladict/a from Terry Pratchett's 'Monstrous Regiment' - in my head she's androgynous, but she comes out looking no more convincingly male than a twenties flapper: boyish in haircut, but of extremely feminine face and figure.