Alanna: The First Adventure

Alanna: The First Adventure  - Tamora Pierce This book is a large chunk of my childhood. I have probably read it dozens of times at this point, and I love it every time.

Most of that is the characters. Alanna is fun to read about. She is stubborn and has a temper like nobody's business, but she knows what she wants and she goes for it. Women aren't allowed to be knights, so she finds a way around that. She is not good at some of the things necessary for her knighthood and so she works her ass off at them. She gets her ass kicked regularly by a bully and she doesn't give up and go home, she doesn't go and tattle, she doesn't even ask her friends, who would be more than willing to step in and who are all significantly larger than she is, for help in actually fighting him. She learns what she needs to learn and she handles it herself. Her stubbornness gets her into some serious trouble sometimes, but it makes it easy to root for her and to like her.

Several of the side characters are kind of thinly drawn, though that is more due to the size of the book than to a lack of world-building, I feel, given they all end up fleshed out significantly throughout the course of the series.

Those that are more clearly drawn, however, are great. George and Jon are both good friends for Alanna to have as well as interesting fellows (and, admittedly, long-standing childhood book crushes of mine) in their own right. George in particular is apparently a lot tougher than he seems in his interactions with his friends. Her friend and teacher Myles provides the much-needed occasional dose of "guys, you know this knighthood thing is crazy, right?" Duke Roger adds just enough questionable menace to be intriguing.

If you are interested in the Tortall universe, this is the place to start. It is a quick, easy read and it gives you a good taste of the universe and introduces quite a few of the characters that populate later novels in this world.