Mark Reads ‘The Woman Who Rides Like a Man’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna continues to mentor her three apprentices, and then they’re all put to the test. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Woman Who Rides Like a Man.

Chapter Five: Apprentices

Y’all, there’s just so much goodness in this one chapter! I really do feel like Tamora Pierce gets better and better with each book, and here’s why:

  • The entire bit at the beginning of “Apprentices” feels like a wonderful acceptance of the idea that there’s nothing inherently wrong with women doing feminine things or things that might be stereotypical of their gender role. When Kara and Kourrem discover that Alanna doesn’t know how to weave, they don’t shame her for it. They get excited and offer to teach her. Even more awesome, Alanna doesn’t refuse to learn. In fact, she recognizes its importance and gives it a try.
  • When Ishak is gross towards all three young women about the practice of weaving, Alanna promptly gives him a brutal smackdown. It’s such a glorious moment of fighting back against Ishak’s explicit sexism.
  • “These women are your equals. What they do – what they learn – is just as important as what you do and learn. Frankly, in some areas they’re better at it than you are.” OH GOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH ALANNA.
  • The idea of using magic with thread is incredible. I don’t recall Pierce bringing it up before this chapter, but I might have just missed that detail. For me, I enjoy this because it allows those who have the Gift to develop a talent of theirs to harness their power.
  • Initially, I was sort of put-off by Faithful’s insistence that Alanna should interfere with Ishak’s “fate.” It seemed like such a strange and, frankly, insensitive thing to say. Why can’t Alanna help him?
  • Oh, right, FORESHADOWING H E L P.
  • See, I thought I recognized all the foreshadowing, and I thought it was very obvious what Ishak would do. He learned faster than the others, he had an “eagerness to learn dangerous things,” and he lacked “self-discipline.” He’s a disaster waiting to happen, and even after Alanna openly criticized him, I still knew that it was only a matter of time before he did something foolish.
  • MARI FAHRAR, YOU ARE INCREDIBLE. Oh my god, I adore how Pierce handles her. She shows us the importance of Mari’s praise of Kourrem. I’d forgotten that Kourrem was still an outcast, which meant that she may have never received positive attention from any woman in the whole tribe. And here, Mari praises the skill she already has. Oh god FEELINGS. I think Mari was surprised to overhear that the women were trying to learn/teach such a traditional aspect of her culture, and she felt it might help if she assisted them. Plus, it’s so rad how the dynamic of the entire group changes in an instant. Now, Alanna is the student, and Mari is teaching them all.
  • CORAM, YOU LOVABLE MAN. Oh god, can you even imagine how difficult it must have been for him to watch over Alanna? Look at what he comes back to! And as funny as it is that Coram turns purple in frustration, he makes a great point: “They haven’t changed in centuries, and ye’re forcin’ to accept things yer own people can’t accept – not easily.” THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS. I’m so glad the text acknowledges this.
  • Okay, I was kind of saddened by Coram’s admission that he hates seeing Alanna as the stranger. And shit, I never thought of her that way. She didn’t fit in at home; she didn’t fit in at Court; and now she is an outsider in the tribe. Will she always inhabit this dynamic?
  • Is it okay to say that I kind of don’t like Thom? I appreciate that Pierce isn’t making him all that likable. He’s becoming even more arrogant than he was before, and his comments about the Bashir border on being racist. Or xenophobic? Well, I know those are terms to describe things in our world, but still. I don’t like him! WHAT SHALL BECOME OF HIM?
  • “All things change,” [Farda] told Alanna frankly. “It does not hurt men to know women have power, too.” BLESS THIS BOOK. BLESS IT.
  • “Until Mari and Farda entered her life, she never realized that the tribeswomen viewed their men not with fear but with loving disrespect. Sometimes she felt that she was the one getting the education, not her pupils.” No, seriously, this is so awesome to read, and I’m glad that Alanna is able to put aside her pride to admit this.
  • Pierce’s action scenes just get better and better! Like I said when I was reading Alanna, it’s refreshing that I’m not overwhelmed to the point of confusion when she narrates these segments. Even though it’s clearly unconnected, I also was reminded of the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during this fight. The three apprentices get to use what they’ve learned when a group of hillsmen attack. It’s awesome! The fight is exciting, well-written, and suspenseful.
  • Pierce is not afraid to be bleak or unsettling in a book aimed at younger readers. Ishak’s gleeful use of his fire powers is fucking disturbing. He’s so excited to burn men to death. Yeah, something is wrong with that kid.
  • Pierce gives a depth to Alanna that’s always apparent when you read about her. For as much complaining as she does about magic, she quietly goes about using her gift to help Hassam. She’s naturally good at this, and she doesn’t seem to criticize herself during these moments. If anything, she’s always more than willing to use her Gift to help other people. But when it comes to helping herself? She’s far more reluctant about it. CHARACTER DEPTH, I LOVE IT.
  • Here’s the thing: I fully expected Ishak to take Alanna’s sword. Nothing about that is surprising. The entire interaction pretty much happens how I anticipated it. Ishak takes it, says he doesn’t think Alanna deserves, he’s kind of sexist about it, and he and Alanna fight over it. This is not the surprise, though. First, Alanna gets a vision of a woman being burned at the stake, which is continuation of the vision she had at the beginning of the novel. OKAY, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT. But when she tries to protect herself from Ishak’s attack, her shield ricochet’s the magic back at Ishak.
  • “He screamed, once. Then he was gone.”
  • but
  • wait
  • what
  • You don’t me actually gone, right?
  • “There was nothing left of Ishak or of the scabbard he had carelessly thrown on the ground.”

sweet baby peas

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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