In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness #2)
Alanna, disguised as a boy, becomes a squire to none other than the heir to the throne. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna’s liege lord, he is also her best friend—and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a vicious sorcerer threatens the prince’s life, it will take all of Alanna’s skill, strength, and magical power to protect him, even at the risk of surrendering her dreams…
TITLE: In the Hand of the Goddess
AUTHOR: Tamora Pierce
PUBLISHER: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
LENGTH: 288 pages
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.
Now squire to Prince Jonathan, Alanna is on her way to being a knight and finally revealing that she's not the boy, Alan, that she's been disguised as since she became a page.
The new worldbuilding focuses on Alanna's first experience of war, as well as some new examples of how magic works. Being a squire seems to give Alanna more freedom than being a page, able to travel see Thom at one point. This is also the introduction of Faithful, Alanna's cat whose meows sound like speech to her and may have a supernatural origin.
Both of Alanna’s suitors are older than her and are young adults by modern standards while she’s still a teenager, though are reasonably close to her in age. She’s fifteen to George’s twenty-one when he first kisses her and she rejects his advances. A year after the first kiss, George lets her know he’s interested in marrying her and is willing to wait years if need be, something that is on a fine line between endearing and creepy, saved mostly by their continued strong friendship and the fact that he does stop actively pursuing her after this conversation. Later on, she and Jonathan get together when she’s seventeen and he’s around twenty-one. At one point Jon gets possessive of her, a difficulty compounded by the fact that their relationship is a secret. Given the overall arc of the series, this works pretty well and is one step in Alanna figuring out what she wants from relationships and how she'll approach love and sex.
Alanna's distrust of Duke Roger, sorcerer and cousin to the king, continues. She keeps being suspicious of him but then not doing anything about it (for eventually explained plot reasons). It covers the final years of Alanna's disguise as Alan, since she planned from the start to reveal her identity when she became a knight. There's a new storyline related to the war with Tusaine, beginning with diplomatic efforts and then leading into Alanna fighting in part of the campaign. I don't think there are any major things introduced and resolved within this book, since even the war with Tusaine serves as an extension of machinations begun earlier. Alanna's relationship with Jon begins here, but I don't think it could be called "resolved" at this point, it's implicitly on hold while Alanna is traveling but they haven't talked about it within the text.
This leaves the rest of Alanna's life for later, but specifically her next steps as a newly-revealed Lady Knight, travelling with Coram to figure out what she wants. Alanna is still the main narrator, but this includes small sections following other characters, most of whom have grown and changed from the first book. It covers several years of her life, and Alanna matures a lot during that time. It could make sense for someone to start here, as it doesn't rely on a lot of complicated backstory and it briefly recaps whatever is necessary. The main plot focuses on Alanna's time as a squire, ranging from her upcoming Ordeal of Knighthood, to the campaign against Tusaine, to Roger's meddling. It also shows more of Thom than the first book, now that he's almost done with his magical studies.
Graphic/Explicit CW for war.
Moderate CW for alcohol, adult/minor relationship, vomit, blood, violence, medical content, terminal illness, animal death, death.
Minor CW for sexual content, cursing, stalking, mental illness, infidelity, sexism, alcoholism, toxic relationship, torture, parental death, child death.