I think I checked out seven Pierce books today to patrons, plus put one back in the mail from Interlibrary Loan. Can you give me a rundown on why she's awesome and recommend first books? Not that I need any more to read, but I know you're a fan.For anyone who doesn't know (and if you don't, I pity you), Tamora Pierce is a writer of books that are technically categorized in Young Adult fantasy (at least, that's where you'll find them at the bookstore or the library.) Like the works of Robin McKinley, however, Pierce's stories are appealing not only to teenage audiences but to adults as well.
I thought I would do a two-prong post to answer this friend (particularly because I want to secure my nomination for assistant dictator of the southern hemisphere.) First, I've been making notes to analyze Tammy's "awesome quotient." Then, I want to share my own personal journey from Tammy-novice to Tammy-worshipper.
I don't have an actual interview with Tamora Pierce. However, the fantastic Malinda does, over at the Enchanted Inkpot. Also, the Tamora Pierce website makes a good place to start.
Now, for the Awesome Quotient Analysis.
1. Pierce is Prolific: Her first book, Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983, the year after McKinley's Blue Sword. Both books feature strong, red-haired characters who wield swords and save kingdoms. While Harry's tale ends in Blue Sword, however, Alanna and her children and friends go on to inhabit fourteen more books. Add to the the Alanna stories the Circle Opens series (plural), and Pierce has published, at present, twenty-six novels, in addition to multiple short stories or anthology collaborations. Just the numbers assure that Pierce will be a much-checked-out library author.
A long bibliography doesn't tell the whole story, of course. Pierce is prolific in effective writing. Her dialogue is snappy and well-executed; her descriptions are sensory but not overdrawn. Pierce's plots are believable, and she includes roadblocks and how they're overcome: you'll find not even a whiff of deus ex machina. And her imagination soars. From the Jade Pavilion to Daine's Immortal parents, Pierce's books are fresh and deeply engaging.
2. Pierce and the Lake Wobegon Effect: "All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Somehow, Pierce writes characters that are real (see below) but still hugely attractive: strong, attractive, smart, clever, funny, wise, and all the while fallible. Reading about these people makes me want to be a better person. And to be Daine, just because of Numair. But anyway.
3. Pierce keeps it Real:
- Action Scenes Blood is blood, muscles hurt, breathing strains, waste smells, and we can feel the blisters of the sword on our fingers. Pierce's visceral descriptions are particularly important for her female characters, since women in fairy tales (all right, princesses) usually don't sweat.
- Evil Pierce doesn't gloss over the costs of battle; refugees whose homes have been destroyed play prominently into her works. Lack of crops or drinking water are realities in war-stricken Tortall. But there's evil, too, that mirrors the worst of human history. (For example, a wizard whose fighting machines are fueled by the souls of children - so, of course, he has to kill the children to capture their souls.)
- Romance & Sex Sometimes it's love (like my feelings for Numair) and sometimes it's hormones (Alanna explores sex & love), but Pierce never makes romance gushy or sappy, even when someone's in love with a crow. ("I want to always have the taste of you on my lips," Nawat whispered...Trickster's Queen, page 345.) Pierce also makes a point to have characters talk about birth control, if necessary.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear what any of you think about Tammy's Awesome Quotient. Do share!