Tortall is a world similar to medieval England, it has kings and knights stuff like that. It also has magic. Some people can heal, some can spot lies and some can do really amazing things.
The Tortall books are considered to be feminist novels as her characters are strong females who defy the common belief that women are good for nothing than marriage and go on to do great things.
However you don’t need to be a feminist or ever a woman to read the books. Tortall is a well imagined world and the books are fantastic.
The Song of the Lioness Quartet
1. Alanna: The First Adventure
2. In the Hand of the Goddess
3. The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
4. Lioness Rampant
In a time where woman’s only real career option is marriage Alanna swaps places with her twin brother and trains to become a knight. She learn a lot of lessons, battles some enemies, fall in love a couple of times and ends up saving Tortall and changing some of the laws about what women can do.
This quartet was Tamora’s first published books and it shows. The story and the message are fantastic, but Tamora’s writing style is not quite set and the Tortall world is not thought out as well as it is in later books. Alanna is an interesting protagonist with a fiery temper and a fear of her own magic. Sometimes the story skips many months of time, which can be disconcerting. It occasionally feels like some details are missing and that some scenes that should be there aren’t. For example little is shown of the consequences when Alanna is revealed as a girl. A good introduction to the Tortall universe and the females can be strong and do anything a man can do premise. 3/5.
The Immortals Quartet
1. Wild Magic
2. Wolf Speaker
3. The Emperor Mage
4. Realms of the Gods
Someone has opened up a rift between the world and the Divine Realms allowing creatures called immortals to enter the world. Creatures like Ogres, Unicorns and Griffins. The Immortals Quartet follows 13 year old orphan Daine as she discovers her special magical powers and helps save Tortall from joint attacks form Immortal creatures and armies form neighboring lands.
The Immortals Quartet introduces us to many new characters and ideas. Daine’s story is much better written than Alanna and Daine herself is an interesting character. Some people might be a little uncomfortable with the progression of Daine’s relationship with the much older mage Numiar. The Immortals Quartet is a good, entertaining read. 3.5/5
The Protector of the Small Quartet
1. First Test
4. Lady Knight
Kel is the first girl to train as a knight after the laws were changed by Alanna. She faces many conservatives who don’t believe woman can fight as she learns trains. She is knighted and then saves Tortall and the refugees she has been assigned to care for from and evil mage.
This quartet is my personal favorite of all the Tortall books. Kel is unique in the Tortall books as being the only lead character in her books without magical powers and this makes her a bit easier to relate to. She’s a strong character who defies to odds and proves to many people that Alanna was not just a fluke and that women are strong. It’s well written and gives us possibly the clearest view of how the Tortall universe works. The fourth book set after Kel is knighted is the least interesting of the quartet, but is still well worth the read. 4.5/5
The Trickster Series
1. Trickster’s Choice
2. Trickster’s Queen
Aly is the daughter of Alanna. She wants to be a spy like her father but no one will let her. She is accidentally gets sold into slavery and becomes the spymaster for a revolution in the Copper Isles, a nation off the west coast of Tortall.
Aly is a very different character from all of Tamora’s female protagonists. Instead of being a very public hero character, Aly prefers to work behind the scenes as a spy. This works well. The start of the second book is a little annoying as it skips nearly 6 months and summarizes it in a couple of paragraphs. The methods used by the invaders of about 300 years ago and the methods of the revolution are partially based on real historical events like Alexander the Great and some copies of the second novel have a short piece in the back explaining this. The characters are likeable and you really want them to succeed in overthrowing the insane, cruel current monarchs. However I while the Trickster books are a fantastic read I feel that Tamora relied too much on magical powers to make the revolution work. 4/5
The Beka Cooper Series
Set over 100 years before the Song of the Lioness Quartet Beka is an ancestor of George, Alanna’s husband. She’s a member of the Provost’s Guard (police) is the worst slum in Tortall. While battling her shyness, she investigates child killer, mass murderers and money forgers with her special powers; which involve talking to souls of murder victims.
The first book in this series was my introduction to the Tortall universe. Beka is a strong character with a strong back story. Tamora’s descriptions of Beka’s work are well done and very detailed. This series is told as reflective diary entries written primarily by Beka and this format really works for the storyline. The first book is better than the second as the crimes that Beka and her partners is investigating seems more serious; despite Tamora’s attempts at detailing the dire consequences of forged money on a medieval society. Book three is good. The investigation in interesting and has far reaching consequences, however the romantic storyline seems forced and kinda out of left field. The big twist at the end is shocking, but a little unbelievable. 4/5