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FireOpal

Tortall Series by Tamora Pierce

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FireOpal

This is the fandom that I've written the most fic for, next to Harry Potter. There are many book series I love, but I only consider myself a 'fan' in some sort of stricter sense of the word of a few. And one of them is the Tortall books. I love them all, because the characters and the plots are so good, and they truly invite to fanfiction.

 

There are five book series and several short stories set in the Tortallan Universe, all written by Tamora Pierce. Many of the characters show up in several series, or have decendants or ancestors in other series, and it's one big mushy heap of amazing personalities!

 

The oldest of the five series is called The Song of the Lioness, and is a quartet of books about the girl Alanna who pretend to be a boy so she can train to become a knight against the law. The series was written in the 80's and it shows, but it has still aged a lot better than most fantasy from the time. There are some jarring examples of values dissonance (and this is, frankly speaking, the least well written of the series), but Alanna is such a great character that they're definitely worth reading anyway.

 

The second oldest series, and the first that I read, is The Immortals, another quartet, and one of my favourites. This series follows Daine, a girl with 'wild magic' through which she can communicate with animals. This one was written in the 90's and time has marched on a bit from this one too, though mostly from a animal science point of view. There is, however, also the matter of the very central sort-of student/teacher ship with a huge age difference that is my guilty pleasure but also - now that I'm older - preeeetty weird. It could definitely have been handled a lot better, that's for sure.

 

Next up is Protector of the Small, another - wait for it - quartet, and my unproblematic fave among them all. Written in the late 90's/early 00's the series follows Kel, the first girl to openly train for knighthood and it is so good, and with much less of a focus on romance. It is, in my opinion, the most well-realised of all the series (though I personally love The Immortals more), and it has so many great characters. I challenge you to read these books and not fall in love with Kel, the perfect Gryffinpuff!

 

The fourth series written is not a quartet (gasp!) but a duology called Tricksters which follow Alanna's very Slytherin daughter Alianne as she's kidnapped by a god to help free his chosen people from oppression and bondage. Like certain elements of the Alanna books it suffers from a bit of a White Saviour complex, but at least Aly doesn't do all of the revolutionary work herself. And one of the main characters is a crow that got turned into a human, what's not to love about that? : P

 

The fifth and, this far, last of the Tortall series is actually set chronologically first. It's called Provost's Dog, is a trilogy, and follows Beka Cooper, a member of a sort of proto-police force. The books are the closest we get to Tortallan detective stories, though they're pretty action packed too. Beka is an amazing character and the old-timey language and slang is a joy to read, but the series - especially the last one - was less well-received than most others.

 

Then there's an assorted number of short stories, most of which can be found in the anthology Tortall and Other Lands. I won't talk about them too much because most of them are spin offs based on spoilers from the other books.

 

So, by now you may have noticed that all the main characters are girls and women. That's because these are some of the most feminist mainstream (well, mainstream-ish) fantasy books out there, and Pierce has gotten a lot better at including other oppressed groups too in later books.

 

That's all I have to say for now, I think. And I know there's at least one other Tortall fan here, so... come and play!

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Jo Raskoph

I read all of the Song of the Lioness books and loved them to bits, when I was 13 or something. I even made my school's library order them so I could read them.

 

At the time my favourite subplot was how the prince kind of fell for Alanna even when he thought she was her brother. I was so hoping he'd make a move…

 

I haven't read them in ages so I don't have much to say, except I'd love to read your fics! Which of the quartets did you write fanfiction for? What/who's it about?

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MuggleMaybe
I know there's at least one other Tortall fan here, so... come and play!

I AM HERE TO PLAY! :D Thank you for making this thread!

 

As you know, I also LOVE the Tortall books! I've just recently started reading the Provost's Dog series (well, technically I've been listening to it) and I love it SO MUCH. I haven't read the third book in the trilogy yet, so no spoilers, please ;)

 

So, by now you may have noticed that all the main characters are girls and women. That's because these are some of the most feminist mainstream (well, mainstream-ish) fantasy books out there, and Pierce has gotten a lot better at including other oppressed groups too in later books.

 

One thing I really love about Tamora Pierce's writing is the unabashed feminist slant. I've recently heard arguments that sexism isn't an issue in the Potterverse, and for that reason it isn't much addressed in the series. I find this very problematic (a discussion for another day). It's a useful contrast for Tortall, though, because in the Tortall stories, there is definitely sexism and gender roles are discussed quite a bit. But the strength and diversity of the female characters so obviously shows sexist ideology to be wrong, and characters discuss and fight actively against those ideas at times. Diane's discomfort with wearing pants rather than skirts comes to mind. I find that nuanced look at how even those of us who support gender equity sometimes feel more comfortable with traditional gender roles really honest and interesting. It's something many stories lack, and one of my favorite things about the Tortall books.

 

The Provost's Dog books do very well with this in my opinion. Between Beka, Goodwin, Ahuda, Tansy, Aniki, Kora, and the members of Beka's family, it would be impossible to generalize about the characters based on gender.

 

I was very pleased to see the addition of more diversity in other senses in these books, too :)

 

As I'm currently a bit obsessed with Beka's stories, I wonder why the series hasn't been as widely popular? I don't get it! :P

 

Also, Jo

At the time my favourite subplot was how the prince kind of fell for Alanna even when he thought she was her brother.

^^This needs to be a fic, with Jonathan realizing he's bi :P (I can't handle the idea of him being perpetually in the closet because I love Thayet too much. haha)

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abhorsen.

Ahhh, Tortall. I used to be on the message board Tamora Pierce started way back when, that's how obsessed I was. :P

 

My favorite books were always the Kel books, though - I think they hit a perfect middle ground in Pierce's evolution as an author. In her earlier books, there was some sketchy relationship and gender/race relations stuff that flew over my head when I was a kid but gives me pause now -

 

along with Daine/Numair, Alanna/George and Alanna/Jonathan (to a lesser extent) also had some iffy power dynamics

 

- and I felt like some of her later books swung too far in the other direction. In the Beka books especially, it sometimes felt like she was trying so hard to be inclusive that issues and characters were kind of forced into the book rather than addressed in a more natural way.

 

... which is making me sound super negative, which I don't mean to be. The POTS books in particular really are one of my favorite series ever, and I've reread them more than I can count.

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FireOpal

@Jo Raskoph Haha, I love that you made your school library order the Alanna books! I hope they made many other young readers happy too!

 

I have written shorter fics - some just 100 word drabbles - for close to all the series, and some that are more general 'Tortall fics' than tied to a specific series. You can find them all on my AO3, Epikoinos. For someone who's just read the first quartet I think all of them are pretty spoiler-y, though...

 

(Anyway, my personal favourite is probably Well of the Wasteland, which is about Alanna and Kel going on a knight's quest together. I really need to finish that...)

 

: )

 

@MuggleMaybe Hi Renee, you took my bait! : )

 

I definitely agree that Tamora Pierce generally handle issues of feminism better than Rowling did in the Potter books. From what I understand just making the fact that Alanna has periods explicit was revolutionary when the Song of the Lioness books were written. (Gosh, I wonder how witches tend to handle their periods in the HP verse...)

 

I loved Beka's stories though, but I'm always a sucker for a mystery to solve. I think I guessed them all correctly, but I might be aggrandising myself in my memory, haha! But the Provost Dog series is also pretty different from the rest of the Tortall books, and aimed at a somewhat older audience, so I can understand that they wouldn't be some Tortall fan's cup of tea. And maybe they have a hard time reaching another demographic as new readers might be scared off by the serie's connection to this huge story universe...

 

@abhorsen. I definitely agree about the sketchy relationships, and I think there are elements of sketchiness in some of the relationships of later books too. But then again I tend to think that most of my friend's relationships - and even my own! - are a bit sketchy. Relationshipping is hard. And as a writer it's easy to go for one dynamic and end up conveying another, much less healthy one. Sometimes I wish it was general practise for authors to go back and edit these aspects of stories the way fanfiction writers often do when they get this kind of feedback...

 

I also think I sort of see what you mean with "In the Beka books especially, it sometimes felt like she was trying so hard to be inclusive that issues and characters were kind of forced into the book rather than addressed in a more natural way." To me it read like Pierce was forcing herself to write about certain topics before she'd researched them enough and, I guess, internalised the concepts as 'part of reality' rather than 'issue I should discuss'...

 

For example I wish she'd known where she was going with Rosto, Aniki and Kora better, just generally. I'm one of the people who really love the character Okha, though.

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abhorsen.

SO I SORTED NEAL AND WANTED TO SHARE.

When I sort, I use the system laid out on the tumblr sortinghatchats - you can look over their outline post here, but in essence, they sort everyone into two houses (which, despite their names, are equally important): the first (your "primary" house) is why you do things, where the second (your "secondary" house) is how you do things.

Neal is definitely a Ravenclaw primary. From sortinghatchats:

Quote

Ravenclaw Primaries have a constructed system that they test their decisions against before they feel comfortable calling something right. This might be constructed by them, or it might have been taught to them as children, or it might have been discovered by them at some point later in life.

This fits Neal to a T. His system doesn't necessarily make sense to anyone else - his decision to leave the university at the age of 15 to become a page isn't something that anyone in the books ever really understands, for example - but it always makes sense to him. His sense of right and wrong guides his decisions and makes him choose a much more difficult past, but it's not something that he feels in his gut - it's something he reasons in his mind.

When he hears a good argument, he’s also happy to incorporate it into that system - but he needs to hear the argument first. When he starts helping Kel fight bullies in First Test, he says: “… I’m trying to justify to myself the fact that the best lesson I ever had on chivalry came from someone five years younger than me. When you put it that way, well, I guess I’d better help.” It didn’t become the right thing to do because he was worried about Kel or realized that bullies were bad - it became the right thing to do because she gave a logical, convincing argument.

There’s one scene in Lady Knight that probably illustrates his Ravenclaw primary better than any others: the scene where he confronts an innkeeper named Alvik over his mistreatment of a young indentured servant boy named Tobe. When Kel-the-Hufflepuff-primary sees what’s happening, she stops the abuse and buys Tobe’s contract. When Neal-the-Ravenclaw-primary sees it, he puts an illegal spell on Alvik and then intimidates him into silence by saying, “Who will impress the Crown more, swine? The oldest son of Baird of Queenscove, or you?” While Kel looks at what he did favorably in the moment, even going so far as to call it a "good deed," it's not something that she would have done if she could - for Kel, the rules matter, and every person is a person. Neal, on the other hand, is fine with breaking the rules - as long as he's not breaking his rules.

At first glance, he does look a bit like a Ravenclaw secondary as well. From sortinghatchats again:

Quote

Ravenclaw Secondaries plan. They collect information, they strategize. They have tools. They run hypotheticals and try to plan ahead for things that might come up. They build things that they can use later. They feel less at home in improvisation ad more comfortable planning ahead and taking the time to be prepared.

Neal is an academic who loves to learn everything, even if it’s unlikely to have any practical use. He absolutely collects information, and he's the sort of person to lecture his fellow pages on the distinction between tactics and strategy. However, while he might have a Ravenclaw secondary model, he doesn’t necessarily rely on the information he collects to solve his problems - he's not really creating toolsets. He just likes knowing things. He coasts on his innate skills and his status too much for a foundational house like Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.

No - Neal is a Gryffindor secondary. One more from sortinghatchats:

Quote

Gryffindor Secondaries charge. They meet the world head-on and challenge it to do its worst. Gryffindor Secondaries are honest, brash, and bold in pursuit of things they care about. Known for their bravery, it is almost a moral matter to stay true to themselves in any situation that they're in.

However much Neal likes knowledge, this is who he is. He's very direct; he might change whether he’s saying something, especially as he gets older, but he doesn’t tend to change how he’s saying it. He doesn’t deal with problems by shifting his presentation - he takes great pride and pleasure in telling people exactly how stupid they are and what they’re doing wrong to their faces, despite continually meeting with very mixed success. He picks a fight in almost every chapter he appears in. Neal doesn’t care about peace or harmony - he cares about being right.

And if it’s a fight that Neal does believe is right, he’s always in the middle of it. He’d generally prefer to use his words over his fists, but Gryffindor secondaries aren’t inherently more violent than anyone else - approaching the problem directly through sheer obstinacy is equally valid, and Neal is definitely the most obstinate person in the Protector of the Small series.

That's probably how he and Kel bond so quickly and so strongly despite having objectively little in common - sure, he’s happy to give her the chance to prove that she can be a warrior, but not being a sexist jerk isn’t really a sufficient explanation for a friendship between a fifteen year old boy and a ten year old girl that became so deep and sincere that he was willing to sacrifice four years of page training to help Kel do the right thing. Being two sides of the same Gryffindor coin, on the other hand, definitely goes a long way toward explaining how easily - and implicitly! - they come to understand each other.

To summarize: Neal is a Ravenclaw primary and a Gryffindor secondary, with possibly a fairly weak Ravenclaw secondary model.

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Renacerá

I've talked to people individually about Tammy's books for years, but haven't posted here yet! I've been reading her books since I was about five years old, and they've influenced me so much. I credit the Tortall universe with making me a feminist, a dedicated reader, a passionate advocate for diversity in literature, and a publishing professional. I absolutely adore these books and have so many thoughts on all of them, which I'm sure I'll post here at some point in the future.

My questions right now though:

  1. Has anyone else started reading Tempests and Slaughter? (Obviously use the spoiler tag if you're talking about it!) I'm a little over a third of the way through, so I don't have definitive thoughts yet, but I'd love to know who else is reading it right now so I know who to talk to when I finish!
  2. And, related to that, is anyone going to see Tammy speak about the book on her tour that started recently and is going on for a while to come? I'm going to see her next week! AHHH! I honestly can't believe it and I'm so worried I'm going to make a fool of myself. She's made such an impact on my life, and I have no idea how to tell her that without sounding like an absolute lunatic. But I'm so excited!
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MuggleMaybe
12 hours ago, Renacerá said:

Has anyone else started reading Tempests and Slaughter?

Yes! In fact, I just finished it the other day and I’d love to discuss!

Spoiler

I adore Numair as a character, so of course I was super excited about the book. It was soooo fun to have a whole book spent with him. I also enjoyed the world building that went on, with gladiators and different types of magic, and the way the academy is run. It was so cool! Also, I thought it did a good job of establishing the dynamic between Numair, Varice, and Ozorne. The inclusion of Sarge was exciting and unexpected. =)

But actually, I was kind of disappointed by the book, because I found the plot weak. I felt like there wasn’t a central goal or storyline to get excited about. If a person hadn’t already read the Immortals, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book, and that makes me sad. I’m hoping the next book in the series has more plot development and tension, as the conflict between Numair and Ozorne deepens.

What did you think? Am I being too harsh? I did enjoy it, but mostly bcs numair is so great.

Edited by MuggleMaybe

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Renacerá
10 hours ago, MuggleMaybe said:

Yes! In fact, I just finished it the other day and I’d love to discuss!

  Reveal hidden contents

I adore Numair as a character, so of course I was super excited about the book. It was soooo fun to have a whole book spent with him. I also enjoyed the world building that went on, with gladiators and different types of magic, and the way the academy is run. It was so cool! Also, I thought it did a good job of establishing the dynamic between Numair, Varice, and Ozorne. The inclusion of Sarge was exciting and unexpected. =)

But actually, I was kind of disappointed by the book, because I found the plot weak. I felt like there wasn’t a central goal or storyline to get excited about. If a person hadn’t already read the Immortals, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book, and that makes me sad. I’m hoping the next book in the series has more plot development and tension, as the conflict between Numair and Ozorne deepens.

What did you think? Am I being too harsh? I did enjoy it, but mostly bcs numair is so great.

I haven't finished yet, so I'll get back to you when I do! (I'm too scared to spoil anything and click your spoiler tag, haha. Give me a few days and I should be done!

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Renacerá
On 2/13/2018 at 1:15 AM, MuggleMaybe said:

 

  Reveal hidden contents

I adore Numair as a character, so of course I was super excited about the book. It was soooo fun to have a whole book spent with him. I also enjoyed the world building that went on, with gladiators and different types of magic, and the way the academy is run. It was so cool! Also, I thought it did a good job of establishing the dynamic between Numair, Varice, and Ozorne. The inclusion of Sarge was exciting and unexpected. =)

But actually, I was kind of disappointed by the book, because I found the plot weak. I felt like there wasn’t a central goal or storyline to get excited about. If a person hadn’t already read the Immortals, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book, and that makes me sad. I’m hoping the next book in the series has more plot development and tension, as the conflict between Numair and Ozorne deepens.

What did you think? Am I being too harsh? I did enjoy it, but mostly bcs numair is so great.

I just finished yesterday! (And I get to see Tammy tonight! Ahhhh!)

 

Spoiler

I really liked the book in general for the reasons you noted, but I also agree that the plot was kind of meandering. There were a lot of questions left unanswered by the end, which I felt was abnormal for a Pierce novel. Typically, she wraps things up at the end of each book and introduces a new conflict at the beginning of the next, even as there’s a big/overarching conflict that stretches through the series (e.g. Roger is the huge issue in all of SotL, but TWwRlaM is mostly about Alanna with the Bloody Hawk; or the release of the immortals stretches through Daine’s Quartet, but EM is about the characters’ experiences in Carthak). So it was odd for me how much was left unresolved—Preet, Faziy’s murder, the sinking of the fleet, etc.

I still liked it a lot, but it was definitely a departure from past series’ layouts.

 

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MuggleMaybe
25 minutes ago, Renacerá said:

There were a lot of questions left unanswered by the end, which I felt was abnormal for a Pierce novel.

I think you hit the nail on the head with this! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And have an AMAZING time meeting her! :D 

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abhorsen.

I still need to read that book, but I'm going to slightly change the subject but also feel free to ignore me and/or change it back. :P

  1. I HAVE BEEN WONDERING FOR AWHILE. Were any Tamora Pierce fans on HPFT ever part of the Sheroes message board? Because I was, and I still have a lot of friends from there, and I am super curious about whether any of us knew each other In A Past Life. :P
     
  2. Does anyone else just sometimes have Mark Reads the Tortall/Emelan books kind of perpetually going in the background as like a comfort blanket? :ninja:
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MuggleMaybe
1 hour ago, abhorsen. said:

I still need to read that book, but I'm going to slightly change the subject but also feel free to ignore me and/or change it back. :P

  1. I HAVE BEEN WONDERING FOR AWHILE. Were any Tamora Pierce fans on HPFT ever part of the Sheroes message board? Because I was, and I still have a lot of friends from there, and I am super curious about whether any of us knew each other In A Past Life. :P
     
  2. Does anyone else just sometimes have Mark Reads the Tortall/Emelan books kind of perpetually going in the background as like a comfort blanket? :ninja:

I have never heard of Sheroes, but I wish I'd known about it!

As for number 2... well, I'd never heard of Mark Reads until I googled it just now (and holy cow, I was missing out on such a great resource!) but YES, I listen to the audiobooks of Beka Cooper ALL the time. It's my bedtime series, for when I need something to keep my thoughts from keeping me awake. I've listened to the whole series like 4 times already. :wub:

I really need to try writing some Tortall fic, especially now that I've found people who would read it!

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MadiMalfoy

Hiiii I'm late to the party but I've brought my thoughts on various things Tamora has written! 

First: I absolutely LOVE the Beka Cooper trilogy -- I read it initially as I was going through early high school, so Beka's storyline really resonated with me and definitely shaped a bit of who I am (along with HP, obviously) today. I'm planning on doing a re-read of it as I have time with grad school starting (eek) because it's been about two years I think since I last read them. I think that she definitely deserves more credit and praise for writing this trilogy AFTER all of her previous quartets/duology because she had to work around an existing lore framework of sorts to build up this Beka Cooper character. Again, I am definitely fuzzy on the details, but I think one of the main reasons I so liked this trilogy was that it was kind of a crime/detective-y trilogy with ever-raising and complicated stakes as the books progressed while still keeping Beka true to character while she learns a lot of lessons. 

Second: I have not read the Immortals quartet so...... (I am likely going to buy them here soon though....maybe)

Third: I have read her newest, Tempests and Slaughter, so I have thoughts as someone who is unfamiliar with the main characters as they are portrayed in that quartet.

Spoiler

Coming into this book with no knowledge of who Arram Draper is going to become by the end (I assume it is Numair, as that's the name of this new series :P) I honestly quite enjoyed it. While the plot was a bit lacking in relation to her other books, I really liked the detailed look at Arram's (and his friends') classes as they progressed through the school. Ozorne and Varice are both very nicely developed characters who play very distinct roles that also change naturally in relation to Arram throughout the book. For me personally, the whole layout of the book as separated by class terms/big events was very aesthetically pleasing and worked as natural breaks or time jumps. So yes, while the overall plot seems rather dull, I think it was very cool to read about Arram helping during the typhoid outbreak, repairing the games' stadium, working as a healer mage during the games, and other more "school-driven" events because it's a nice way to develop his character's personality in a setting outside of the school while still in the presence of those who are tied to the school. I liked the crocodile god Enzi, and the lightning snakes too were a neat development and I'm very curious to see if Arram's struggle with fire magic continues into the following books/lessons he has. 

So honestly, for someone who is going into this blind, like I did, it's an enjoyable book to read without having background knowledge of the future of the characters sitting in the back of your mind, at least in my opinion. 

Fourth: I read Protector of the Small quartet wayyy back in middle school so I have minimal (aka zero) recollection of what happens in that series but I will also revisit it at some point. 

Fifth: I have also read the Trickster's Choice & Trickster's Queen around the same transition time of middle school to high school, so I'm afraid my memory is also lacking there, but I just re-downloaded them to my kindle and plan to read them again. 

Sixth: I have not read the Song of the Lioness quartet, but I am unsure if I want to at this point considering all of the good points made previously in this thread about it not aging very well past the 80s when it was written. I may just see if I can rent them from a local library (if I can find one) instead of buying them but we'll see. 

That's all I have to say right now but I do love her books overall, and specifically this universe she's created in Tortall. 

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Renacerá

@MadiMalfoy

You have to (re)read everything in her Tortall world! Really, everything. They're so worth it. 😍 But more on that later! First, thoughts on all your thoughts (which are mostly just me talking about how much I love these books):

 

  1. I also loved Beka's trilogy! It's such a different style from the rest of Tammy's books, but I thought she took on the epistolary style really well! And the characters were fantastic, as all of hers are!
  2. You have to read the Immortals quartet. Especially since you've now read Tempests and Slaughter! It's going to give you such insight into the characters, so you can see where things are heading and what T.a.S. is hinting at. Which is amazing.
  3. Speaking of, T.a.S. really is quite good! It was slower plot-wise, yes, but I think she made some really interesting choices that harken back to the Immortals quartet in really cool ways. I'm excited for the rest of the series!
  4. The Protector of the Small quartet is my absolute favorite of all of her books. Kel is my biggest literary hero, and the series is astounding. Every character, plot point, sentence...just everything. I love it all.
  5. The Trickster's duology is also quite good! I hadn't remembered that I liked them so much until rereading them last year or the year before. There's something more mature about their writing that's a good change from some of the younger characters Tammy writes.
  6. Okay, here's where I have slightly longer thoughts. The Song of the Lioness quartet does have more of an '80s feel to it, that's true. The writing is a little bit "younger," which makes the books very quick reads. And they do encompass quite a lot of time—the first book is four years; the second is three, I think; then the third and fourth are about half a year each, I think—so the plot can be a bit light. But honestly, they really do show so much of the Tortall world, and Alanna comes back in other books so it's really good to see her grow up. Her adventures really are great. Thus, in my opinion, you should definitely find them at the library or buy them (they can be really cheap) and give them a quick read. They aren't Tammy's best books, but they are still good and add a lot to the Tortall universe.
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