Mark Reads ‘In the Hands of the Goddess’: Chapter 7 – Winter Tales

In the seventh chapter of In the Hand of the Goddess, Alanna struggles with her confusing romantic and sexual desires and faces another confrontation with Duke Roger. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read In the Hand of the Goddess.

Chapter Seven: Winter Lessons

Guess what? I don’t hate this love triangle.

I’ve just accepted that this quartet is going to move through a long period of time rather quickly, so I don’t feel the need to mention this much beyond here. Pierce focuses on the important points in Alanna’s life over the course of these books. In this case, Alanna’s winter lessons involve gender roles, what it means to fall in love, and Duke Roger being an unholy bigot.

I was actually entertained and pleased by the way Pierce wrote Alanna’s navigation through the idea of being a girl and falling in love. This chapter, then, is a story about confusion and what Alanna does to combat feeling bewildered by her role in this world. First, she goes to visit Mistress Cooper, whom I now appreciate more than I did the first time I met her in this book. Like Sir Myles, Mistress Cooper is a mentor of sorts to Alanna, but for an entirely different reason. Here, Alanna explores her feminine side, and I LOVE THIS. She gets to experiment with something she’s been suppressing for most of the book, and Mistress Cooper gives her an environment that’s positive and supportive. Not only that, but Alanna finds herself opening up about more than her appearance to Mistress Cooper. She’s increasingly honest about how confused Prince Jonathan makes her feel with his behavior. Despite that I did not have any experience with budding teenage romance growing up, I still appreciated the way in which Pierce brings up the issue. Through Alanna, she’s able to relate how complicated it is when you first discover romantic and sexual feelings within yourself. It’s even more complicated for Alanna, who’s living out a dual life of sorts, because Jonathan expects her to be a lady and his dudely squire at the same time. It doesn’t help that he treats her differently based on what expectations he has for her at the time.

And so Alanna takes out her frustrations in a cathartic experience: dressing as a young woman. Mistress Cooper helps her along in this process, and I think it is awesome, especially as a way to send the message that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being feminine. Also, this made me laugh:

“I’m beautiful,” she whispered in awe.

Mistress Cooper laughed at this. “You’ll pass,” she said, pushing Alanna into the kitchen.


So far, the love triangle isn’t annoying me, and I think that’s because Pierce isn’t making this about Alanna’s worth as a human being. Alanna already knows she is pretty awesome. Instead, Pierce focuses on sexual desire and gender expectations. I admit I’m not excited about George or Jonathan being heartbroken over Alanna choosing the other one. That will be no fun. But by putting the emphasis of this plot on how Alanna grows as a person and a young woman, I’m not irritated by a story I normally despise. I mean, Alanna starts dressing up as a lady and going into town just to get a sense for how it feels to dress and act this way. It’s really easy for me to see a queer subtext to this, especially as it concerns how Alanna plays up her butch nature every day, but then escapes at night to explore her femme side. HELLO, WHERE WAS THIS BOOK WHEN MY LITTLE QUEER HEART NEEDED IT AS A CONFUSED TEENAGER? Oh god, it was there the whole time, and I had no idea.

Duke Roger is also super fucked up in this chapter. Surprise. So when is someone going to finally join Alanna in justifiably hating Duke Roger? It’s inevitable that she’s going to have to fight him sometime, and with the pace this book is unfolding at, I imagine it has to happen in In the Hand of the Goddess. I think the Ordeal is going to be in this book, too. Alanna is already seventeen, and we’re not even halfway through the Song of the Lioness quartet. Oh god, WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE ORDEAL? I’M SCARED.

Anyway, back to Duke Roger. So, that ember-stone that the Goddess gave Alanna can actually show her a person’s magical aura? This is intriguing. Obviously, it gives Alanna proof that Duke Roger tried once again to murder her, this time through Demon Grey, the wolf. The man is getting desperate, isn’t he? He’s going to mess up and do something rash, and I’m guessing that will be his downfall. That’s the only way Alanna will get proof of his actual intentions.

The final part of this chapter is probably my favorite part so far because Pierce so openly talks about how confusing sexual desire is. Alanna knows she is curious about having sex with Jonathan, but she careens between wanting it and being frightened by it. Despite her longing, she still believes that falling in love will betray her quest for knighthood. It’s kind of heartbreaking to read about Alanna putting up this wall because I know that it was so hard for me to finally approach sex without this sort of emotional baggage. Granted, my situation was different in a lot of respects, but I find some clear similarities in this story. I know exactly what it’s like to be so afraid of sex while wanting it at the same time. HELLO, CATHOLIC CHURCH, you are responsible for so many of these issues.

At the end of this chapter, though, I was struck by how honest Jonathan and Alanna are with one another. It takes them both admitting that they’re frightened for them to see each other on the same level. For all the assurance Jonathan pretends to have, he seems to be just as frightened about sex as well. It’s refreshing that they both admit this to one another. The chapter ends before we find out what happened between them. NOT FAIR. I know Pierce isn’t afraid to address sex frankly, so I think we’ll see the start of a sexual relationship between Jonathan and Alanna very soon.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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