The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
These books have been out for a while (almost 30 years), so they’ve had a few covers. Here’s a selection; I have a hard time choosing a “best” from these, but it’s not the third one.
The Song of the Lioness quartet is the adventurous story of one girl’s journey to overcome the obstacles facing her, become a valiant knight, and save Tortall from conquest. Alanna douses her female identity to begin her training in Alanna: The First Adventure, and when she gains squire status in In the Hand of the Goddess, her growing abilities make her a few friends — and many enemies. Books 3 and 4 complete Alanna’s adventure and secure her legend, with the new knight errant taking on desert tribesmen in The Woman Who Rides like a Man and seeking out the powerful Dominion Jewel in Lioness Rampant.
Well, if you are the target demographic (early teen girls), most definitely. Adults may find the series a little harder to love. However, I just read it for the first time and enjoyed (although did not devour) it (I’m almost 30). Each book is a separate story–they are relatively short, about 200-300 pages each in mass-market paperback. The first book starts when Alanna is 10 or 11, and the last book ends when she is in her early 20s, so 14-16 is probably the ideal age to read them at. There are also several other short series set in the same universe in different time periods (Alanna is the first).
Alanna was a warrior chick before it was a huge trend.
Magical pet! Alanna’s cat named Faithful is the best.
Difficult decisions! Alanna and her friends often have to make hard choices with grave consequences.
I came late to Tamora Pierce appreciation. I kind of skipped over a lot of YA fiction when I was an actual YA, so I missed her work. It’s really too bad, since even though I quite enjoy them now, I feel that these are really books that you need to read at a certain age. Her writing is straightforward and moves quickly, but the message that girls don’t need to consider their gender an obstacle to becoming what they want to be is what makes the books stand out. Even now, most YA heroines are defined by their relation to boys and men, even many of the heroines who are warriors or fighters of some kind. The Alanna books (and Protector of the Small, which is the only other Pierce series I’ve read so far) are so refreshing in that regard. Her heroines do have romantic relationships, but they never let the men in their lives define them. Give these books to a young teen girl you know!