In the Hand of the Goddess is the second book in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet. In the book one, Alanna: The First Test, Alanna, who has always wanted to become a knight, disguises herself as a boy and trades places with her twin brother Thom, who has always wanted to become a powerful sorcerer. Going by Alan, Alanna reveals her true self only to a few as she completes her page training—making both powerful friends (like Prince Jonathan, Sir Myles, and George Cooper—King of Thieves) and powerful enemies (Duke Roger of Conté).
In the Hand of the Goddess begins with Alanna, still disguised as a boy, beginning her page training with Prince Jonathan as her knight-master. In fact, Alanna is just returning from an errand on behalf of Prince Jonathan, when a storm breaks and Alanna is forced to stop for the night. Here, she meets with two very interesting surprises. The first, Alanna is adopted by a small black kitten—with purple eyes, very similar to her own, and whose cat noises often sound remarkably like speech. And the second is when the Goddess, Herself, appears to Alanna, and bequeaths Alanna with an ember stone, a token of the Goddess’s esteem and goodwill. If Alanna had thought she was ordinary before, she’s certainly having doubts now! But before Alanna can begin having her grand adventures, she must first survive being a page to Jon. And when a few near-deadly “accidents” start to occur, surviving might not be as easy as it sounds. Of course, a few close calls are nothing compared to the difficulties of learning to be a lady in her spare time!
Tamora Pierce’s In the Hand of the Goddess continues where the first book left off, diving straight from one magical adventure into the next. We see that learning to be a knight isn’t all fun and excitement, but also studies and chores. Not to mention, Alanna’s enemies seem to be getting more and more dangerous. Alanna suspects Duke Roger of plotting against the royal family to win the throne for himself, but proving it is the hard part.
The second book does well, keeping pace with the first. And as much as the first book is the newness and grand adventure of becoming a knight, In the Hand of the Goddess looks more closely at the emotional battles that Alanna is waging as she grows up—What do her feelings for Jon mean? For George? Does being a knight mean giving up being a woman, too?—Or can she be both?
I think the first time I read the series, I focused a mainly on Alanna’s relationship with Jon, and her knight-training. But re-reading the story, I found myself really focusing on each of Alanna’s relationships with her friends, watching how they built, or fell apart, and looking for the subtle hints of all things to come. One of my favorite things about Tamora Pierce’s books, is how often I can come back to her stories and they still feel fresh and new!
All in all, very fun read (and re-read), climaxing with one of Alanna’s most epic battles.