The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

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The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
A Novel of the Tortall
Protagonist Alanna of Trebond
Antagonist Roger of Conté...
Setting Tortall...
Author Tamora Pierce
Cover Artist David Wiesner
Publication information
Publisher Atheneum
Release Date 1986
UK Release Date
Series The Song of the Lioness
Preceded by In the Hand of the Goddess
Followed by Lioness Rampant

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third installment of The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, YA high fantasy novels set in the Tortallan Universe—a secondary world that was created by Pierce with this quartet. The book is about Alanna of Trebond after she reveals herself as a girl to the Tortallan court, while she was dueling Roger of Conté. This book chronicles the beginning of her time as a knight errant, wandering around the realm and learning new things, and of her experiences with cultures unknown to her previously.


"To Pa, Ma and Kim—
my own personal pride of lions—

and particularly to Pa,
who started me writing in the first place
—Dedication of the book

Back Cover Summaries

"A knight at last, Alanna of Trebond heads out to seek adventure in the desert of Tortall. Captured by desert tribesmen, she is forced to prove herself in a magical duel to the death. But her real challenge doesn't come until after she wins. As the first female shaman, Alanna must fight to change the ancient tradition of the stubborn desert tribes-for their own sake and for the sake fo all Tortall."
—Back cover summary, Random House's 1986 edition

"Let her prove herself worthy as a man"

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death—either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman—despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes—for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

—Back Cover of the 2005 Simon Pulse paperback edition


Alanna has officially banished herself from Court, and is afraid of returning and the reception she will receive. She and Coram Smythesson journey deep into the Great Southern Desert and are accosted by hillmen—and later saved by a tribe of Bazhir. They don't recognize the King in the North as their monarch and are belligerent. They decide that Alanna must fight to the death and either die or be adopted into the tribe. She wins and both she and Coram become Bazhir of the Bloody Hawk. Not all the tribe are happy about this, however, namely Akhnan ibn Nazzir, the tribe's shaman. Alanna bests Nazzir after he attacks her with Duke Roger's crystal sword, and she becomes the shaman.

Now the shaman, Alanna begins to train the young Gifted children of the tribe whom Nazzir said were cursed. She begins to teach them, but Ishak, the only boy, is annoyed at how slow the lessons are going and why she does not harness more power. He steals the crystal sword and is not able to use its power, so he dies.

Ali Mukhtab, the Voice of the Tribes, comes to the tribe and says that he must have a successor soon for his office, which is passed in an Ordeal. He chooses Prince Jonathan as his preferred heir, as he knows if Jon is the Voice, the Bazhir and the Northerners will be united under one banner. Prince Jon and Myles of Olau arrive, and Alanna is shocked to see how smug and superior Jon has become in her absence. She ignores this, however, and they sleep together a number of times. He asks her to marry him, and she says she needs more time. Meanwhile, Jonathan is adopted by the tribe and trains under Ali Mukhtab to be his successor. In an Ordeal involving powerful magic, Ali transfers his powers as the Voice to Jonathan and dies. Myles then adopts Alanna as his daughter and heir. Alanna is angered when she learns that Jon had just assumed that she would return with him to Corus and confronts him. They have a large fight, and Jon leaves without her. Alanna continues training Kara and Kourrem in magic, and they pass their Ordeals to become shamans. Now that Alanna has nothing left to do for the tribe, she, Coram, and Faithful, leave.

Instead of returning to Corus, they make their way to Port Caynn to visit George Cooper. Coram becomes smitten with Rispah Cooper, George's cousin. Alanna begins a love affair with George, but refuses to return to Corus with him to look in on the Court of the Rogue there. Alanna and Coram go back to the Bloody Hawk tribe, and George goes to Corus. George confronts the thief known as Claw and immediately distrusts him.

Upon returning to the tribe, Halef Seif asks Alanna to save a sorceress, one of is friends. When Alanna and Coram arrive at her village, they see the villagers start to light a pyre and burn the sorceress to death, thinking the sacrifice will please the gods. They rescue her, but not in time, and the sorceress gives them an ancient scroll that turns out to be a map to the Dominion Jewel.


  • Alanna of Trebond is the protagonist of the quartet. After becoming a knight and defeating her sworn enemy Duke Roger, Alanna travels to the south where she can help others. She learns more about the uses for magic, as well as duty, which she acquires as a shaman of the Bazhir, and a teacher to the tribe's young people. Alanna finds a more surer sense of self, and begins a love affair with one of her old friends (after breaking things off with the other for being too arrogant and conceited).
  • Coram Smythesson has been with Alanna through thick and thin, and this time is no different. Coram has a deep sense of duty to Alanna and her family, and serves her well.
  • Faithful is Alanna's magical cat, who can communicate with humans on a whim. Faithful has been assigned by the Great Mother Goddess to help Alanna and indeed he does. He warns Alanna when Akhnan ibn Nazzir uses a Gate of Idramm, and again when Ishak steals the dangerous crystal sword.
  • Kara, Kourrem, and Ishak, are three young people who have been made pariahs by Akhnan ibn Nazzir and his ignorance. They all possess the Gift and must be taught, or disaster could ensue. Alanna takes up teaching after she becomes the tribe's shaman, and instructs them in magics they have never heard of before. After Ishak's death, Alanna turns her focus to the girls, and even push the tribe to accept the two girls at their fires and councils, as they would be the tribe's shamans one day.
  • Halef Seif is the headman of the Bloody Hawk tribe. While originally in opposition to Alanna and her unusual ways, he accepts her once he sees her value to the tribe. They become close friends throughout Alanna's stay with the tribe.
  • Ali Mukhtab is the Voice of the Tribes, and immensely powerful. He is dying, though, and must find a successor and quick. Ali decides upon Prince Jonathan of the North, as then their two cultures would be united and the violence will end.

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