|Goodreads ( Beka's head looks like it's on backwards)|
The books of Tortall have been massively important to me, and I'm so pleased to have grown up along with the stories. I'm not going to talk much specifically about Mastiff except to say that in Farmer, Pierce has done what I thought was nigh impossible -- give me a character to replace Numair as my favorite! Well, almost. Sadly, we only get this one book with Farmer, and according to Pierce's website, a series about Numair will debut in 2013. Squeeeee!
Also, I am not happy with the twist in Mastiff. I won't even give you a hint. I was totally caught off guard, and I shouted at the book when the twist was revealed. The thing is, I was unhappy as a reader with the twist because it put favorite characters in peril, but as a writer, I admire Pierce's choice. It's not something I've managed to pull off in my own writing -- serving the story despite the fall out for the characters. I get so attached to my characters, goodies and baddies alike, but people die, people turn, people stumble and fall and make spectacularly bad decisions, even the goodies. Until I'm willing to do this hard work of the story, my fiction isn't going anywhere. And even though I'm not writing the sort of stories Pierce writes, her lesson is one I need to really take to heart.
The first Tortall book was published in 1983, and while I still count it as one of my favorite books, it's been interesting to follow Pierce's growth as a writer as I've grown as a reader. Alanna's books are very much focused on a girl power theme, neatly feminist with nods to racial diversity. As the series grew and as the market expanded, the diversity of the world opened up, and now her stories include all manner of characters, including some significant queer characters. I suspect that Pierce would have included a broader cast of characters in her earlier books (totally a hunch, no basis in research or anything), but in the early 80s teen book market, I'm not sure that would have been accepted. What is important, though, is that Pierce has expanded her writing as the times have progressed, and that she always pushed at the boundaries of stereotypes. I am constantly recommending her stories to the teens who come into the library. I hope I have a daughter someday, because you can be sure I will share these books with her.
And please, Ms. Pierce, write more about mages. And lots about Numair. He is my favorite.