In the eighth chapter of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna visits an old friend. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Woman Who Rides Like a Man.
Chapter Eight: The King of the Thieves
I’m glad I didn’t peek at the next chapter title, because it would have spoiled me for the focus of chapter eight. Unsurprisingly, Alanna goes to visit George in the city. During this part of the book, Pierce explores Alanna’s sexual desires and the confusion she’s going through in terms of her romantic life. I appreciate how complex this is and how willing Pierce is to be truthful about how bewildering this is for Alanna. Love isn’t an easy thing to navigate.
Years ago, this chapter would not have caught my interest. It took a long time for me to simply enjoy stories about love and romance! Not only did I have little experience with it, I felt like I could never truly understand what the characters were going through. While I can’t say that I’ve ever had to figure out my own feelings for two dudes at the same time (after one of them rejected me brutally, too!), I think I’m at a point where I do want to read about this stuff. You know, I also have to put this chapter and this book in perspective. I was like two when it came out. Well, nearly three. And here is a fantasy series dealing with the very real complications of sex and love, and nowhere in the text is Alanna ever shamed for pursuing two men. Well, yes, Jonathan shames her for her feelings towards George, but it’s painted in a negative light. That’s especially apparent when we see how George Cooper, the other man whom Alanna shares a great affection for, treats Alanna while she stays with him.
George has always been far more forthright than Jonathan, and while that initially came off to me in a creepy way, when he’s contrasted with Jonathan’s behavior, he’s far more appealing to me. That’s certainly not something I expected from this series, either! But I think it’s one way that Pierce consciously breaks this fantasy trope. In the hands of any other author, I bet Alanna would have ended up with Jonathan in a happy, blissful marriage. Instead, Pierce chooses to focus on the big and small things that can lead a person to love someone, but not want to commit to them. And by gods, that’s such a rad thing to read about. IN A FANTASY BOOK. Oh god, there are fantasy things going on, too.
But before we get to those elements, let’s remind ourselves why George and his friends are awesome.
- GOD, I LOVE RISPAH SO MUCH. One of my favorite moments in this whole book is coming up, and it involves her.
- Rispah and Coram flirt and it is beautiful. And you know, I like that there’s an acknowledgement that HEY, PEOPLE WHO AREN’T YOUNG STILL FALL IN LOVE AND HAVE SEX from Alanna.
- Even though Alanna is emotionally fragile and George knows something has happened between her and Jonathan, he still takes her in, feeds her, comforts her, makes sure she is entertained, and only minimally asks her what’s going on. When she refuses to tell him, he respectfully backs off. Okay, George, you are awesome.
- George just casually has a Shang warrior hanging about. NO BIG DEAL.
- You know, normally I might have a problem with George allegedly sending the Shang warrior away, but let’s be real here: Alanna’s curiosity and sense of pride would have convinced her to fight Joesh. IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED, YOU KNOW IT.
- George allows Alanna to explore her femininity, is clearly attracted to her during these moments, and still loves her all the same when she’s being distinctly un-feminine. YES. WONDERFUL. Which is not how Faithful reacts. Dude, you’re a magical cat, shut up and support Alanna. Jonathan did not just magically pull his bigoted thoughts out of thin air because Alanna was mad at him. Shut up you are a cat.
- George takes a risk when he confronts Alanna after she eavesdrops and learns of Princess Josiane. I figured that he would know she was around, since he has the Sight, and I figured he’d say something. I initially thought it was a bit crass that in this moment, when Alanna is upset that Jonathan’s moved on while she’s still upset, George basically pitches himself in Jonathan’s place. Is it sweet? Oh god, yes. The whole “fish with a crooked heart” thing is too beautiful. But it ends up working to his favor. What I enjoy about this scene is that when Alanna does express a desire for sex, George says no. He doesn’t think the time or place is right, but he trusts Alanna when she says she knows what she’s doing. It’s great to read because it’s such a positive affirmation of sex. Alanna understands what she’s doing, and I love that George recognizes this.
- Alanna realizes that George treats her both as a comrade and as a noble lady, giving her both of the things she wants emotionally and physically. That’s a big deal, y’all!
So while all of this is going on, shit is getting weird in Corus. First of all, Thom weirds me out. He does! He’s rude and inconsiderate and so full of himself that he thinks that zapping Alanna’s Gift for an ~*experiment*~ is TOTALLY COOL AND NOT A BIG DEAL AND ONLY A MINOR INCONVENIENCE. An inconvenience? Dude, what if you woke up to discover you had no magical powers? I’m pretty sure you’d classify that as more than an inconvenience. Ugh, what gives? He’s so pretentious, and I don’t like him.
Then, everyone’s soup is poisoned. Okay, what? I am not entirely sure that George’s theory that it has to do with the Claw. Can it really be that simple? Why risk poisoning everyone instead of just George? Why use such ridiculously disturbing items like the charm that kills the maid when it’s taken away from her? That seems rather like overkill for a strange new man in town, right?
Either way, this brief respite for Alanna is over not long after this. Restless, Alanna is eager to return to the desert, where it’s a lot more warm. On top of that, she’s not willing to accompany George to Corus while he deals with the possible feud with the Claw. She’s not ready to face Jonathan quite yet. Yes, I do think she’s smart to think how such a “scandal” would affect Myles, and I also believe her when she says her reputation would be destroyed if she showed up. But I also think that deep down, she knows she hasn’t dealt with her feelings towards Jonathan, at least not fully.
So Alanna is heading back to the Bazhir. Coram isn’t too happy. OMG, he is ~loooovvvveee~, isn’t he??? HE TOTALLY IS.
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