In the second chapter of Lioness Rampant, Coram and Alanna leave for the Roof of the World with Liam, and she struggles with her growing feelings for the Shang warrior. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Lioness Rampant.
Chapter Two: The Road East
I just realized that Alanna is growing up. I know that a great deal of time has passed in this series so far, I’m now acutely aware of the fact that Alanna is in her twenties, and her problems are changing. Plus, I am really admiring the way this series address romance and love. You know, I don’t need to relate to things to appreciate them, and that’s certainly the case here. I’ve never had the privilege of having to deal with my feelings for multiple people, and truthfully, I often haven’t experienced being pursued by people I find attractive. So for me, it’s just fascinating to see this all from Alanna’s point of view.
Okay, first things first: Alanna’s dream:
- Looks like Thom is going to regret what he’s done and ask for Alanna’s help.
- George Cooper will help Alanna determine what her purpose is in life.
- Jonathan… actually, I don’t understand what her vision of him is supposed to represent. Which probably means I’ll be surprised when it’s revealed what it stands for.
The bulk of this chapter deals with the group’s journey to the east and Alanna’s growing affection for Liam. I like that this makes Alanna question what it is that makes her attractive to someone else, especially someone like Liam. I know that is something I’ve asked myself, too, and I bet many of you have had to think about this as well. In this case, Liam is much older than Alanna. (It appears that he’s thirty-four.) He clearly acts as if he is the older, more-experienced one, and while this does irritate Alanna from time to time, she also sees it as a challenge, such as the scene where she recites her “education” about Saren and the K’mir. (And while this is going on, we also get what I’m guessing is a very necessary bout of exposition about the civil war going on in Saren.)
But what I found most rewarding about this chapter is Alanna’s disappointment, and yes, I know that’s a weird thing to say. It’s revealed here that Liam is literally afraid of magic, so much so that it turns him pale and sweaty when Alanna uses her Gift. While I do think Liam and Alanna are cute together, it’s clear that she’s a much better fit with someone like George Cooper. Tamora Pierce uses this characterization in Liam to bring about disappointment in Alanna. Alanna finds some comfort in Liam, though most of it is physical, and she realizes that she can never be with Liam because he doesn’t accept everything about her. And I think that’s a pretty rad message to find in a fantasy book. Alanna knows that when she’s ready for love, the kind of complete, all-encompassing love, she’ll want the man she is with to accept her unconditionally. Things could never work with Liam because of this fear. As she puts it:
He really is afraid of magic, she realized. The knowledge depressed her: It confirmed the end of their romance at its beginning. Someday she would have to leave him – no love would last when he feared part of her.
It’s sad, yes, but Alanna knows what she wants. She’s had a hard enough time accepting herself, so why should she tolerate this again from someone else?
Still, Alanna and Liam have a great chemistry, and I won’t deny that. (Generally speaking, that is. There’s that whole scene where Alanna feels immensely uncomfortable with Liam’s constant interrogation, and I think it’s important to take note of this.) There are a lot of training sequences in this chapter, as Pierce spends time with Alanna as she heals from her wounds from the attack in chapter one, and then later when Alanna learns Shang fighting techniques from Liam. Liam is a fantastic teacher, one who values discipline and rigidity, and Alanna herself is a fine student as well. She’s never been less whiny and more dedicated towards learning as she is here in “The Road East,” and I think that’s yet another sign of her continued maturity as a person. She’s also naturally defensive when Liam tries to insist that her magical ability is a distraction or a crutch. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, and it’s clear that the magic-less world of the Shang has left him prejudiced against her. Of course, Alanna takes it personally. Is it possible that she is a weaker fighter because of this? I don’t think so, but I imagine this will be on Alanna’s mind in the near future.
Also, can we start a Coram fanclub immediately? Every time he tells Liam and Alanna not to woo one another in front of him, I would fall deeply, deeply in love with him.
I wasn’t surprised by Alanna’s jealousy at Mongrel Cur. It’s in her nature at this point to feel this way, I’ve noticed, and it doesn’t always work to her advantage. I’m hesitant to call it a flaw, though, because jealousy is such a common trait in so many people. I will say, though, that Alanna’s very outspoken jealousy here could have gotten them in more trouble than actually manifested. I mean, seriously, perhaps whisper these thoughts instead of shouting them?
So I am guessing that the end part of this chapter is leading directly into the first initial conflict of Lioness Rampant. As the party begins to cross the Sarain, evidence of the civil war is everywhere. It’s the first time we’ve seen so much death in the series. Bodies liberally litter the roadside, some having been there long enough to decay down to piles of bones. I’m also anticipating a scene where they meet Adigun jin Wilima, since Liam is so certain this is all their fault.
Well, actually, whoever sneaks up on Liam and Alanna at the end of this chapter is problem going to bring them to Wilima. RIGHT. Oh god, are they going to make it to the Roof of the World at all? NOOOO, I NEED TO SEE IT.
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