Friday, 18 November 2011

Alanna! Oops.

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.


  1. Tammy hasn't had a UK publisher for years now. It sucks, all those young people who are missing out on discovering her books. I vividly remember finding the books in the library, and loving them. Have to order US copies of her books now.

    1. That's right. I work (on and off) in a bookshop and was pleased to find they were still orderable for stock, though (and in the nice David Wyatt covers too). I made a point of ordering a bunch of 'Alanna's and putting them out under a recommend-card that said they were good for Harry Potter fans (training-school-based-sword-and-sworcery). They all sold rapidly. I'm sure there's a market for Tammy here still.

      I too found the books in the library when I was a wee bairn (well, about 10), along with a hearty recommend from a great childrens' librarian. Where will we be if libraries and bookshops disappear? there'll be no enthusiastic professionals to bring great books to our notice any more.

      Sorry for the angst, actually just meant to say, thanks for the comment and sorry I didn't reply till now!