Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness #4)

Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. She has triumphed in countless bloody battles, and her adventures are already legendary. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs…but Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when she is challenged with the impossible. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good—but only in the right hands. And she must work fast. Tortall is in terrible danger from all directions, with enemies great and small plotting to destroy everyone and everything Alanna loves.

TITLE: Lioness Rampant
AUTHOR: Tamora Pierce
PUBLISHER: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
YEAR: 1988
LENGTH: 400 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

As the final book of Alanna’s quartet, this wraps up several things left hanging from the previous books. Since the previous book (rather dramatically) featured Alanna rejecting Jon’s proposal, this shows Alanna having other relationships (George and a new person), and gives a strong indication as to who Jon’s queen will be. It reveals the result of Thom’s magical experiments, Claw’s attempt at George’s throne, and the contents of the mysterious letter from the sorceress of Alois. 

Because Liam is a new character, Alanna’s romance with him could count as a new storyline, but it’s a continuation of her previously established interest in Shang warriors. He assists in a quest which resulted from meeting the sorceress of Alois in the previous book (the Dominion Jewel), so it doesn’t really feel like a new storyline, though it’s definitely more information about Shang than we’d gotten before. Their relationship is both introduced and resolved within this book.

Alanna is closer to her old self, with much less of the white savior nonsense from the previous book. This story is contained enough to be friendly to readers returning after a long break between books, but the finale will be much less impactful to someone who hasn’t at least read the first two books. 

Based on the letter retrieved at the end of the previous book, Alanna and Coram go on a quest for the Dominion Jewel, a powerful artifact currently resting high in a specific mountain pass. I said there’s less white savior nonsense this time around, but the letter was specifically for the headman of the Bazhir tribe which adopted Alanna, and he returns it to her rather than go on the quest himself or giving it to someone who is of the tribe by birth. Also, we learn of at least one other person adopted by a different Bazhir tribe, so I get the impression that it’s common for the Bazhir to adopt outsiders, something which wasn’t clear before. While on the quest, they meet Liam, and later are joined by Thayet and Buri. When they return to Tortall they find that things are very wrong in a number of ways, all of which come to a head at Jon’s coronation in a pretty dramatic battle. The finale and its sequence of fights is one of my favorite moments in the series, for all its tragedy. 

I said it’s mostly free of white savior nonsense, but there’s a moment which sticks in my craw where someone relays a theory that the Doi, K’miri, and Bazhir are descended from one race. The Doi are shown precisely long enough to tell fortunes (helping Alanna in the quest), the only examples we have of the K’miri are of them as body-servants to royalty of another ethnicity, and the Bazhir are being subsumed into Tortall (refer back to book three). It feels like a way to make all the semi-nomadic (or fully nomadic) peoples in the whole quartet all actually be one group, which definitely feels squicky. Maybe in this setting it is correct and it’s actually a cool fact! But it’s presented as a theory and completely doesn’t matter to the conversation in which it occurs.

I like most of this and it’s a solid end to the quartet.

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, violence, death.

Moderate CW for alcohol, mental illness, vomit, blood, injury detail, war,  animal death, suicide, murder.

Minor CW for sexual content, xenophobia, fire, excrement, slavery, genocide, parental death.

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