In the eighth chapter of In the Hand of the Goddess, Alanna struggles with Duke Roger’s constant threats, and seeks out an ally to help her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read In the Hand of the Goddess.
Chapter Eight: Fears
Okay, do you know how awesome it is to read a book (and one intended for a younger audience) that features two people having consensual sex unattached to a relationship? I can’t even recall this happening in anything I read growing up. To give you an idea of how brutally awful my education was concerning sex, the school board forced all the schools to cut out all references to sex education in our Health books. We couldn’t learn how to put on condoms, how to have safe sex, learn about other forms of sex besides intercourse, learn about non-heterosexual sex, or anything that wasn’t abstinence. I’m serious. The pages were CUT OUT OF THE BOOK. Sometimes, you’d turn a page and only one rectangle in the corner would be missing because it had a demonstration on how to put on a condom. This is the environment I grew up in. It was no surprise that our school had a high rate of teen pregnancy. (Though, to my specific school’s credit, they had a daycare/health program for young women who got pregnant during high school, and it was awesome. So there’s that!) It’s no surprise that I also didn’t come out for years because there was no normalization of sex, especially not gay sex. (Well, obviously there were other factors, such as everyone was a bigot.)
To have this sexual relationship presented so plainly and without shame is fantastic. Major, major props to you, Tamora Pierce.
I wasn’t too thrilled to find out that Delia of Eldorne was working specifically for Duke Roger. I kind of held out for her, hoping that she’d end up being an awesome character who just happened to like Jonathan, but now I know she’s ~totally evil~ or something. Meh? Roger’s planning something diabolical, but I can’t figure out what it is beyond his meager attempts to kill Alanna.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the hell out of this chapter. In the Hand of the Goddess feels a lot more cohesive to me than the first Song of the Lioness book. This one is more connected in a sense by the master story arc of two plots: Alanna’s confrontation with Duke Roger, and her Ordeal. While there are side stories, that’s mostly what chapter eight deals with. I was happy that Alanna finally confided in Sir Myles about her suspicions regarding Duke Roger. I wasn’t surprised that Sir Myles had the same thoughts; he’s proven to be rather astute in the past. But they’re both plagued by the same problem: they never have proof. It’s a familiar narrative device, sure, but I’m less inclined to complain about it because I’m fascinated by the dynamic between Myles and Alanna. They are both so close to the truth and they know it, but they dance around it at times because it’s uncomfortable. Plus, I get this fatherly vibe from Sir Myles, and it’s interesting to see how Alanna turns to him more and more over the course of this quartet.
Then Alanna nearly dies. Again. This one in particular was only frightening because I have a fear of falling into frozen water while ice skating. That’s a very specific fear; I’m aware of that. It’s why I’ve never gone ice skating on a pond or lake or anything. AND I WON’T EVER DO IT. But since this scene was in the middle of the chapter, it didn’t have much urgency. Plus, I’ve just come to expect that Duke Roger is going to try to murder Alanna at every turn. It’s what he does.
It’s partially what Alanna needs, though, to go seek out her brother, WHICH IS THE BEST THING EVER. Well, there’s some more of George trying to insist Alanna fall in love with him, but that doesn’t go over too well. I don’t know that I would quantify George/Alanna/Jonathan as a love triangle anymore. Alanna pretty clearly chooses Jonathan early on, and this chapter just confirms that at the very least, she loves Jonathan. I like George, but I’m inclined to think that Alanna isn’t going to end up with him. It feels like Pierce used his character to get Alanna to face the fact that falling in love doesn’t make her a lesser person.
Anyway, my favorite part of this chapter is THOM OF TREBOND. Oh god, I am so happy that Thom is not only in this book, but he’s coming to the castle to live with Alanna! THIS IS FANTASTIC. But the best part about this is that Pierce gives Thom a healthy dose of character development in the process. It’s been a long time since Alanna last saw her brother, and he’s changed since their days in Trebond. Not only is he physically different (beards!), but Pierce writes him with a hardness. Unlike Alanna, he seems far more certain about what he wants in the future. He’s a genius, apparently, but he’s also seemingly content to be alone. And that’s the key difference between Alanna and Thom, at least at the moment. While Alanna is always aware of the fact that once she turns eighteen and passes her Ordeal, she’ll be off on her own, she still seeks out the companionship of others. Thom does not. And I don’t get the sense that he’s lying to Alanna, either. So why has he closed himself off like this? I suppose I don’t actually need an answer to this, as it’s pretty neat that Pierce has written Thom so that he’s a loner by choice. He enjoys his studies, and he enjoys the power he has. Is he going to go off on his own solitary journey, too? Wait, OMG, what if he teams up with Alanna for badass adventures? Okay, I can’t get too excited for something that might not ever happened. Still, it’s a good idea!
For a moment, I was worried that during the next scene, when George and Alanna are ambushed on their way home, George would be killed off. I don’t really know why I thought this. I guess I’m just used to every character dying ever. I’m also used to there being no proof of Duke Roger’s plans, so it wasn’t surprising that the one man they got to that was still alive died before he could say anything. Blast it! There’s not much story left. I don’t think Duke Roger’s story is going to last beyond this book. What’s going to happen?
I’m not sure yet. This chapter ends on a happy note, giving me no sign of what’s to come. Alanna’s friends get her a ridiculous and incredible set of birthday gifts, and I’m still so impressed with how much of this series is about friendship. It’s just so sweet to me that everyone would care about her enough to get her such amazing gifts. For real, Sir Myles got a cup for Faithful to sit in. THAT IS SO WONDERFUL. Oh my god, please tell me there’s fanart for this. I NEED TO SEE IT.
There’s a clear set-up for Alanna finally being honest with Sir Myles; Jonathan almost tells her that Sir Myles knows she’s a girl, but ultimately keeps it to himself. He’s much more forthright about his feelings, though, as he admits to Alanna that he loves her. The very word makes Alanna squirm, but I think the end of this chapter is her way of finally conceding that it doesn’t matter. What she feels for Jonathan, romantic or not, is love. Again, it’s so spectacular to me that these two aren’t in a relationship, and Pierce has them say they love one another. I just don’t come across that often! Plus, it’s cute, and I’m sure that last set of sentences in chapter eight spawned thousands of fanfics. I can’t blame people. It’s really sweet. Don’t judge me.
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