In the Hand of the Goddess

In the Hand of the Goddess  - Tamora Pierce Actual Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In the Hand of the Goddess is the sequel to Alanna: The First Adventure, one of my new favorite classic fantasies from this year. Naturally, I was anxious to keep going with this series and see what adventures Alanna would get up to this time around. I listened to this one on audio and despite the fact that I'd read the first one, the transition from book to audiobook was easy. The narrator did a really good job voicing Alanna as well as all of the secondary characters so that was a plus. I will undoubtedly be listening to the rest of the series on audio!

In the Hand of the Goddess picks up not too long after the events of The First Adventure. Alanna, still posing as a boy in the hopes of becoming a knight is now officially a squire to none other than Prince Jonathan himself! With everything that Alanna went through on her way to becoming a squire, and she's become quite the force to be reckoned with, which means two things: 1. she's grown a lot, become stronger and more confident. And 2. she's made some enemies along the way. Powerful ones at that. Soon Alanna is tested even further as a war looms and she must protect her Prince and her Kingdom from its destruction.

Right from the first chapter, I was brought back to what makes this series great. We're introduced to Alanna meeting her very own animal familiar, a magical black cat with matching violet eyes to her own. Instantly, she adopts the sweet thing and names him Faithful. Faithful and Alanna quickly learn that can communicate with one another and that Faithful can sense when Alanna is in danger. Knowing how much I love magical animals and cats in general, I think you all can guess how over the moon I was about this new development. In addition to Faithful, there's the usual variety of unique magical items that seem to the a staple in this series. This time around, there was an enchanted amulet to go along with Alanna's epic sword but I won't divulge what the amulet does, because: spoilers ;)

Despite it's impressive beginning which also included a Goddess, as the name would suggest, I found that In the Hand of the Goddess couldn't quite escape the dreaded 'second-book syndrome'. The war was an engaging twist, but it failed to deliver as much battle-action as I would have liked. Then, there was the new romantic development. As much as Alanna vows to never fall in love, she becomes a young woman in this installment and begins to have feelings for...someone. The focus on the romantic side of things was a little surprising, considering how insistent Alanna has always been about not falling in love. The romance itself wasn't unpleasant. In fact, it was downright believable but it never really successfully made me swoon like the best ships do. Even the final showdown with the main villain (so far) fell a bit flat for me, which was surprising considering that the tension had been building since the first book.

I also have to share about a personal pet-peeve: when authors age up characters up very quickly and/or time jumps ahead by increments for no clear reason. I don't know why, but it bugs me. When I become attached to a character, I like to see them grow/mature in a normal progression. Alanna seemed to go from a young squire to a woman in the blink of an eye. I found myself wishing that Tamora Pierce had slowed things down considerably, even if it meant that Alanna had stayed younger for longer. I feel like she was aged up quickly just to add romantic tension to a story where the heroine didn't really need romance to begin with. At least not straight away. I just wanted to see my girl grow up normally!

Regardless, In the Hand of the Goddess was a solid follow up, even if it fell short of its predecessor. I enjoyed being reunited with Alanna, returning to Tortall, and watching the wonderful magic grow and evolve anew. I cheered along with all of Alanna's friends as she made the journey into Knighthood, which was filled with it's fair share of exciting ups and downs, not to mention a few good twists thrown in for good measure! This series is a must for classic fantasy readers and I'll definitely be reading all of the rest of the books by Tamora Pierce.

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket