Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

All she ever wanted was to be a knight. And it was that dream, that spurred the changing and the strengthening of a realm, the discovery of talent and of magic, the birth and the heart of many, the legend and the inspiration for all.

On the outside, Page Alan of Trebond is simply a boy with wicked purple eyes and wild twist of flame red hair, the same as any other knight-in-training at the royal palace. But deeper, Page Alan is not all he seems.

Alan is Alanna, the girl with a love for archery and fencing, a passion for riding and a drive that pushes her to open closed doors and to chase her desires, to dance with rogues and laugh with princes, to see and do and truly be. Disguised as her twin brother, she sneaks off to become a palace page, a knight in training. Alanna stays true to her task to become a knight, binding and concealing her budding womanhood, struggling with the force of her magical Gift, the touch that the Gods have placed upon her, and all of the trials and tribulations that come from being a simultaneous girl and boy.

She faces bullies, falls in love, experiences duels, battles, and murderous mages, befriends all from the King of Thieves to the Crown Prince of Tortall, all in hope of earning her shield as a knight.

My gosh. I love this book.

Ever since I was a tiny little mite of evilness and awesome, I have completely, toadally, muhahahably adorified the Alanna series. She's a girl who defies all social boundaries and constraints to follow her aspirations, and she's inspiring to characters in her book and to readers alike. She reminds me of Frankie from the Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (by E. Lockhart—check out Avery Trelaine's brilliant review right here), who does sort of the same thing. Both books explore the issues of a woman and a girl in a society that subtly, even unintentionally restrains or underestimates them.

Another thing to be loved about these books, is the fact that at the end of the series, the characters don't simply disappear. They appear later on as guest stars of principle characters in later series that focus on others. You find out how each person's life progresses, who they marry, what children they have, what battles they've won, and you follow their maturing and their aging, in a way that seems as though you really know them.

Alanna is especially cool, because there is a series about her daughter, a series about her husband, a series about a girl who loves and idolizes her, and in every single Tortall story, she is present as a celebrated legend. By the way, Tortall is the country in which Alanna lives.

So. The series as a whole, receives a wickedly ineffable, empyreal, prodigious review, along with a whopping five out of five evil daggers.

Weeping with admiration for strong women around the world,

Your newbie cousin,


A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond

After the devastating loss of his wife, David Morgan takes a teaching job at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales. David and two of his three children leave their home in Amherst, Massachusetts and travel to Wales to start a new life. Jen, the oldest of David’s three children stays behind with her Uncle Ted and Aunt Beth in order to continue high school. For Christmas vacation, she goes to Wales to visit her family. Upon her arrival, she finds that things are not well amongst the family. David works long hours at the University and when he’s home, he shuts himself up in his study and emerges for only food and sleep. Peter, Jen’s younger brother is bitter and sulky. He never stops complaining about being his Wales. Betty, the youngest of the three children misses Jen terribly and hopes that her presence will help bring balance and peace to the household. Not long after her arrival, Peter tells Jen about a strange artifact that he has found. It is an ancient harp key that shows Peter visions of the life of Taliesin, a famous Welsh sixth century bard. At first, Jen doesn’t believe Peter, but when the key’s strange visions become visible to a wider audience, the Morgan family must act together to protect the key and the family itself.

Nancy Bond’s A String in the Harp is an excellent blend of fantasy and reality. The author seamlessly transitions from the present to the past. Also, when more people can see the key’s visions, Bond flawlessly blends the modern world with the world of Taliesin. Bond’s style of writing is easy to follow, yet intriguing and intricate. She incorporates a lot of Welsh culture, history, and legend into the story, giving it a deeper, richer feeling.

I think that this book is an excellent read for any young adult. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from reading this book. The character of Jen represents a young adult who is not ready to grow up, but is forced to take on the challenging role of guardianship because of the death of a parent. Her scenario relates to many teens and even some preteens throughout the world. The character of Peter also relates to many teens and preteens all across the world. Peter and his father, David, fight an innumerable amount of times because Peter believes himself old enough to have opinions and make decisions, but David doesn’t listen to him because he believes him to be young, naive, and whiny. Although this situation is rather cliché, in A String in the Harp the outcome is rather refreshing, definitely worth the read.

P.S. A String in the Harp is a Newbery Honor Book

I give it 4 out of 5 stars

Yours in reality and in fantasy,
Gabriel Gethin


On the day before the US Elections . . .

There's a great essay by Libba Bray on YA for Obama called "What's Wrong with Being Smart"

And no matter which side of the road you're on, if you're at least 18 and a US citizen -- make sure to exercise your right to vote!!

Yours Truly,
3 Evil Cousins