Walking While Tiny: Episode Notes

Welcome to Season Two of the Hot Nuance Book Club! Today we start Tamora Pierce’s legendary Song of the Lioness quartet, which we’ve all read before but only Aradia has read recently. The journey of re-discovery has already thrown us some surprises, from empathizing with Coram as the responsible adult in the room to having different takes on Jon’s value as a love interest.

Pre-order Queen of Dreams by Kit Rocha https://a.co/d/60e4Vqm

== Buy the book ==
Tamora Pierce’s website: https://www.tamora-pierce.net/series/the-song-of-the-lioness/

== Buy our merch ==

Once you’re caught up, come hang with us on our Discord server and tell us all of your thoughts! Discord: https://discord.gg/fdcaA75UkM

== Check out other FARM podcasts ==
Wheel of Time Spoilers: https://www.spreaker.com/show/wot-spoilers-podcast
That B*tch Is Always Late: https://www.spreaker.com/show/tbial
Black Girl From Eugene: https://www.spreaker.com/show/black-girl-from-eugene

Check out Ali’s other podcastWheel Takes: https://www.spreaker.com/show/wheel-takes

Transcripts by Anna
Art by Bree
Produced by Aradia | Fox And Raven Media

Relive the Marden’s Experience with Bree

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Website: https://www.hotnuancebookclub.com/
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The Song of the Lioness, Alanna: The First Adventure. Chapters 1 – 3: Walking While Tiny

0:00:10 Introduction, welcome, and Patreon thanks

Ali: Welcome to the Hot Nuance Book Club, a podcast in which a novelist, a screenwriter and a podcaster walk into a book from their childhoods, diving into its craft and impact in their mission to bring nuance back. I’m Ali, and I’m a screenwriter, most recently Rugrats, and the co-host of the podcast Wheel Takes, a first time reader podcast going through the Wheel of Time, and also the creator of the Grinwell Cup, which is a march madness bracket happening in March, so in just a few weeks!

Aradia: (clapping) Eek!

Ali: In which we decide the definitive hottest characters in the Wheel of Time, they ascend to the Heroes of the Horny and are ineligible for the next year, so that we can keep it exciting. So that, you know, Aviendha doesn’t win every year.

Aradia: (laughs) I am Aradia. I am one half of the Wheel of Time Spoilers podcast currently rereading Knife of Dreams, a podcast editor, and your pilot for this season of Hot Nuance.

Ali: I like pilot.

Bree: Yes, I called you the captain.

Aradia: It’s the time travel machine. It really made me think of piloting.

Ali: I like that, Yeah.

Bree: And I am Bree, also known as one half of the bestselling sci fi fantasy romance author Kit Rocha. My most recent book was The Horny Dragon Book, aka Consort of Fire, and the sequel comes out in August, if you want to go preorder that. And I’m currently writing a spin off Duology, which I finally got to announce a couple weeks ago. So we sold two more books in the series, and there are about three new characters falling in love and being horny. And I’m really excited, having so much fun writing that right now.

Ali: I am just amazed at your ability to churn out a book in less than a year. Like a second book. Like, how do –

Bree: Oh, my God, We are so slow for romance authors. We were talking about this, romance authors go and they like, go to conferences where a thriller author will be like, Oh my God, they’re making me write a whole book a year. And romance authors are like, Oh, I’ve only written three this year and everybody’s giving me shit about it. We are expected to go so hard. And I think the fact that we like to go so hard contributes to how we all start falling apart ten years into this thing, which I did on schedule.

Ali: Sure.

Bree: So this year actually is our year of enforced rest. We are only turning in one book every eight months. So we’re going real slow for romance, basically glacial.

Aradia: Good for you.

Ali: I’m still unbelievably impressed by that.

Bree: Well, thank you, because it is a lot, writing a whole ass book, especially since ours are like – well, I mean, I guess we’re not writing Wheel of Time level books. We’re not writing like 300,000 words. We’re writing like 100,000 words. That’s still a lot of words.

Ali: It’s a lot of words.

Aradia: A lot of words.

Ali: Currently, we’re nuancing our way through the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. So if you haven’t read that yet, go do that and come back when you have. For the rest of you, let’s break it down now. Oh my God, Aradia has a time travel machine.

Bree: It has passed hands.

Aradia: Yeah. Imagine keys being tossed from Bree to me.

Ali: Beep beep.

Aradia: But definitely far less clumsily than it would happen in real life. Because I’m sure both of us are not great at throwing and catching.

Ali: So real for that.

Bree: Not at all.

Ali: Same. That motor skill delay hits hard.

Bree: Oof.

Aradia: Hand-Eye coordination, what? Have not met.

Ali: Don’t know her.

Aradia: Not at all.

Ali: The fairy responsible for handing out abilities just skipped me entirely when it came to sports. ThoughI am part of this animation kickball league, and by league I mean like, very loosely.

Aradia: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ali: But I did catch three balls during one of the games, and I was like a hero.

Bree: Ooh!

Aradia: Wow. Congratulations!

Ali: It was pretty exciting. I’ve never been a sports hero in my life. I’ve never caught a ball in my life when it mattered. So it was pretty, pretty wild that it happened thrice in one game.

0:04:16 Aradias’s Time Travel Adventures

Aradia: So welcome to Aradia’s definitely reliable time travel adventures. Please keep your hands, feet, tentacles, tails, and other accouterments inside the car as we take you back to the 1980s. There may be some turbulence when we leave the nineties, and I haven’t actually been born yet. But don’t worry. Bree told me how this thing works.

(swooshing sound effects)

Aradia: Our first stop is February of 1983. And I’m going to start with some really easy to explain factoids, before making you all learn really niche things with me. So for science news, the mountain known originally as Louwala-Clough, which means Smoking Mountain, which you might have heard of, it’s called Mount St Helens, began a year of increased eruptive activity that created super intimidating lava domes, which promptly collapsed and sent plumes of ash that went 2 to 4 miles into the sky. These were some of the final rumblings of the massive eruption three years earlier in 1980. So some of the last mellowing down after that.

Ali: I – if there were a massive eruption and then three years later, she started rumbling again? There was not a clean plant around that area.

Aradia: Right? The pictures are pretty intimidating. It’s like, oh, yeah, it went up and then collapsed two weeks later and then this other one went up and then collapsed two months later, like, it was a time. But it was the last time really, that St Helens did anything interesting for the whole rest of the eighties – or yeah, Louwala-Clough.

Bree: Point of interest. It blew up about a week after I was born, so that might have been my fault. I can’t say for sure.

Ali: Auspicious, auspicious.

Bree: Mount St Helens did blow up about a week after I arrived on the planet.

Aradia: Wow. I also wanted to point out a fun cultural moment. February of 1983 was when Weird Al finished recording his debut album. It wouldn’t come out for a little bit longer, but this was when he finished recording it.

Ali: Whaaat?

Aradia: And I just like, Where would we be without Weird Al? Like, where would we be without him, truly? What are your guys’ first comes to mind, like, favorite Weird Al songs?

Aradia: I know it’s hard to pick, but like –

Ali: Amish Paradise.

Aradia: Me too. Me too, Amish Paradise is totally the one that comes to mind.

Ali: It’s always Amish Paradise for me.

Bree: I don’t know why this happened, when I read, What comes to mind, it was fucking the Forrest Gump one. I have had that in my head.

Ali: What is that?

Bree: It’s a Lump parody, called Gump.

Ali: Oh, my God.

Aradia: I don’t know if I’ve seen that one.

Bree: Listen, I’m going to tell you guys, I’m sort of a Weird Al freak. I have all of the albums, Weird Al.

Aradia: Oh, wow.

Ali: I love that.

Bree: So I do love Weird Al.

Ali: I have a friend with a Weird Al tattoo.

Bree: That’s amazing. I’m not that dedicated.

Ali: Yeah, she has like an outline of his face. It’s kind of like a face with curly hair, but it’s, like, very clearly Weird Al.

Bree: That is pretty cool.

Ali: Yeah, is so obsessed with him. I love him, he’s got some great parodies. But, yeah, I couldn’t sing the whole first couple bars of Amish Paradise. That song, for some reason had a hold.

Aradia: Well, what’s really funny for me is that I was kept so isolated from nineties culture that a lot of his parodies were the first time I’d ever heard the song in question. Like, I hadn’t heard the original Gangsta’s Paradise. I didn’t know it. The first time that I heard it, I was like, Wow, he really didn’t change a lot, because I’d only ever heard the Weird Al version. He’s been my on ramp into so many different cultural moments that I just don’t know if I could understand mainstream American culture without him?

Ali: Right.

Aradia: Even though I’m not a huge fan. It’s just, he’s always there when I’m like, Wait, oh, yeah, I saw the Weird Al parody of this. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. I know what I’m talking about.

Ali: Oh, White & Nerdy is another good one.

Aradia: Oh, I was just thinking of White & Nerdy because it’s got early Key and Peele in it.

Ali: Yes!

Aradia: Did you notice that? I rewatched a few years ago, and I was like, They’re so young, but it’s them!Holy shot!

Ali: I love that.

Bree: I am also going to say,my mother spends a few months every winter in Mexico doing artist stuff, and she was just at a fancy party and she was playing her playlist for people and Amish Paradise came on, because she has it on her playlist because of me. So she was playing all these like, fancy people who bid hundreds of thousand dollars on art, she played Amish Paradise for them and they were all like, What is this? And she apparently told them, This is Weird Al, my daughter took me to his concert once. She loves it. She is an artist who’s like, big into you know, cultural symbolism and how we like, you know, record culture and remix it. And so, Weird Al is right up her lane.

Aradia: Oh, yeah, Yeah.

Ali: Your parents are all so cool, artists and hippies and –

Bree: Artist hippies?

0:09:30 Our history with the Alanna books

Aradia: Hippie artists, I mean, it’s confusing. Also, in February of 1983, Tamora Pierce said, The best way to deal with a bully is to beat him up in front of everyone. Welcome to the First Adventure of Alanna in the Kingdom of Tortall.

Bree: Woo!

Ali: I am so excited to be covering this series. I feel like, first of all, we all owe a thank you to Tamora Pierce for, to my knowledge, continuing to stay unproblematic. Thank you so much for doing that.

Aradia: Yes, round of applause, just for that.

Bree: She does it in the best way too, by sometimes saying problematic things and when called out on it going, Oh, thank you for telling me. I have now learned something, and incorporating that into her life going forward, which – a queen.

Ali: Which should be the bar, but since –

Aradia: It’s change of behavior, it’s the best apology.

Ali: It’s a bar that seems to be rarely sailed over. Thank you so much, Tamora Pierce.

Bree: Your heroes don’t always meet that. Thank you very much.

Ali: Yeah. Thank you for doing that for all of us. I love this series. I first picked it up when I was in elementary school, I think? And there are just parts of this that have imprinted on my brain that I think about, Is this my Roman Empire maybe? The binding her chest scene, which happens eventually – for some reason I was like, that’s a thing people do. I think I said this on one of our episodes for Ruins of my Ambrai.

Aradia: Yes.

Ali: Then when some of my trans friends who were transitioning came to me and were like, You know, you bind your chest. And I was like, Oh, cool. Like Alanna in that Tamora Pierce book. And none of them knew what I was talking about.

Aradia: But yeah, I have a snapshot, vivid memory of when I first started reading these books. It’s like 1998. It’s hot and dusty. My dad just got a new girlfriend, we’re in this camper trailer that her parents gave to her. And I’ve known her for a while, but they’ve only recently started dating. And this is the second year we’ve gone to this music festival. The first year dad just took me. This is the second year, and now he’s bringing the new girlfriend along and we’re in this camper trailer. I’ve never been in a camper trailer before, which is like, they’re magical, they’re like these square boxes. And then suddenly they become this giant houses. They’re really cool. And she’s like uber feminists, right? Like Uber feminists. And she’s like, trying to make friends with me. She’s like, Here, you should read this book. And I read it like, several times a day for that whole music festival, I think.

Bree: Aww.

Aradia: I immediately read the rest of the series after I got home. But like, I just still – and it’s this copy.

Bree: Oh, wow.


Aradia: I think it’s this copy. Maybe it’s not because I bought it No, because I bought this after. This is the result of her giving me a library copy. I bought this, a quartet. And then I got rid of Lioness Rampant.

Bree: I can’t believe that book that is that clean came from 1994. You and Gus, man, keeping your books –

Ali: Are you serious? That’s not, that’s like -that’s your old copy?

Aradia: Yeah, I bought this in ‘98. I don’t know why it’s still in such good shape. I don’t know.

Ali: You have to post the picture.

Aradia: It’s very yellowed. The pages are all very yellowed for sure. And I dog eared as a kid, every single page is a dog eared.

Ali: Only sign of age. That is the only sign of age on that book. And meanwhile, I’m looking at my –

Bree: Mine would be like, No cover, split in half.

Aradia: Yeah, there are shreds. There are like, issues.

Ali: I eat while I read. I get like shit all over it. I tear the book, my cat –

Aradia: Yeah, but just every time I think of this book, I’m transported back to this dusty ass field, just reading this book over and over. Like, I guess maybe she’s all right, you know, this new relationship my dad’s got, I guess. And maybe she’s okay, because this is a dope book.

Ali: Is your dad still with her?

Aradia: Nope.

Ali: You know what? Good for her, though.

Aradia: They split up fairly recently. They were – she was my stepmom for my entire adolescence. She put in the blood, sweat and tears, so much screaming fights. We had a horribly tumultuous relationship. They didn’t split up until after my brother and I were out of the house. But they are not together now. I still consider her a maternal figure to stay connected with regardless –

Ali: Of course!

Aradia: Because like she suffered a lot. She put in the time.

Ali: She put in the hours.

Aradia: She earned it. She earned it.

Ali: She was the step mom. She was the mom who stepped up. Isn’t that what they say?

Aradia: She’s stepped on a lot, that’s for sure.

Ali: So how old are you when she came into the picture?

Aradia: I first met her when I was seven, but she didn’t become, like, an actual parent until I was nine.

Ali: Yeah, it’s wild when you come from a blended family like that. Like my parents divorced when I was four, and my mom remarried when I was five, and my dad met his wife when I was five. And so, like, I grew up with her with their kids and all this stuff. But it’s wild. Like the sentence, I was in a camper van at a music festival with my dad’s new girlfriend, is something that will live in my brain forever, because I feel like divorce kids get it. I’m like, Uh huh, that tracks. There was this lady. I guess she’s our family now.

Aradia: Right? Right, right.

Bree: Yeah. I also have a very visceral memory of when I found the series. I read the series completely out of order, because I was – Maine has this store called Marden’s. And it’s almost impossible to describe if you have never been to one. The jingle is, “You should have bought it when you saw it at Marden’s”, and it’s that because it’s just some weird overstock store where they just dump tons of random shit, and you go in, and it’s like a flea market, but by corporations that got weird overstock or damaged items. And you go in there and you can buy real cheap food. It’s probably all expired. So you’re taking your life in your hands and the signs even say that. You can find Marden’s hauls on TikTok, they’re hilarious. But there was a bin of 25 cent books, and In The Hand Of The Goddess was on the top. And it had that amazing cover, one of the first ones that has her with the sword fighting like a wizard guy. And I was like, Oh shit, what is this beautiful thing? This is like 1995, the summer after my freshman year of high school. So I bought it immediately. And then I was like home visiting my grandparents in Maine, because I had lived in Minnesota by that point. And I spent the rest of the trip in Maine bugging my grandparents to take me to the bookstore to try to find the rest of the series, because I read book two in like 2 hours, and I’m just like, We must find more books. But the reason it was in the bargain bin is, they had just gone out of print to do the editions that you were holding up. And so you couldn’t find it anywhere.

Aradia: Ah ha.

Bree: And so I finally got a used copy of book four. So I read that with the old cover, and then I finally got a book one, and I spent so long trying to find book three, like it was eight or nine months that I lived this nightmare life, knowing that all the stuff had happened in book three with my favorite of the love interests?

Aradia: Wow.

Bree: And I just had to keep imagining what had happened. I knew something had gone down. And so, yeah, I finally got book three. It was the most victorious I’ve ever felt about a book purchase in my life. A librarian got it for me, so it wasn’t even a purchase. Just, God bless librarians. And yeah, I read those books so many times in high school, but the last time I’ve read these was, I reread them right before the Kel books came out, First Test and Page and everything.

Aradia: Oh!

Bree: So that was about – I looked it up, and that was like 20 years ago. So it’s been 20 years since I read these. And as I told Aradia, my memory is not great, and my memory for plot is zero. I remember the characters, I remember the dynamics for the most part. I remember nothing about what happens in them. All of this was totally new information to me.

Aradia: Heeheehee.

Ali: I remember Alanna. I remember a hot guy where I was like, this is a hot guy. This was when I was a child. Obviously, we’ve aged to deeper reds at this point, but I remember the chest binding scene and I remember a cool sword.

Aradia: Yeah, there is a cool sword.

Ali: There is a cool sword. I remember that. Yeah.

Bree: I don’t remember a cool sword. I’m sure there is one, but I don’t remember. Yeah, I think I remember three important things. One of them is who she ends up with, because, you know, I had a book boyfriend. I had one chance to say something to Tamora Pierce last year because I was messaging with her assistant for something else. And I just immediately blurted out that I named my car after this character because that’s how cool I am. So I have one character that I super loved, and we will talk about him when we reach him because he appeared. But yeah, I don’t remember a ton, so I am super excited to be totally confused. I’m not sure if it’s all going to come start rushing back on me. I had forgotten Coram for fuck’s sake. I was like, Oh God.

Aradia: Wow.

Ali: I felt like I remembered Coram. I had totally forgotten about Thom.

Bree: Oh!

Ali: Jonathan I remembered. I forgot about the mean kid. I forgot about mean kid.

Bree: Oh yeah.

Aradia: Yeah, Ralon.

Ali: What was his name again?

Bree: Ralon.

Ali: Rolan?

Aradia: Ralon. It’s like Talon, but with an R.

Bree: Also you guys. No idea how to pronounce any of these. I have not said most of these names out loud. I have not listened to the audio books. Y’all are just going to have to roll with me because I’ll probably do it 17 different times. Except for George Cooper, because George Cooper is my man. And I named my car after him, my first car. So, other than that.

Aradia: Right. Well, and it’s a very English name.

Bree: It is a very normal name.

Ali: George Cooper. I forgot about George Cooper..

Bree: Ah! Oh. He’s my boyfriend.

Ali: I know.

Aradia: Yeah, I’ve reread these books very occasionally over the years, periodically, just like for fun. I’d be like, Ah, for a weekend I just want to go back to Tortall and just like, vibe. But yeah, I have a pretty good memory for plot, often less for places or character dynamics, but the specific beats of the plot are what I remember. So yeah, I just love the story. It moves so fast though. The YA pacing is a thing.

Bree: It really does.

0:21:09 Music break. Chapter 1: She did it before it became a classic

Aradia: Let’s attempt to get through this in a semi linear fashion and break into chapter one, which is Twins. And this chapter basically is where we introduce the core cast and the core conflict and like the base base world building – and again, YA, it goes very fast. But this is our exposition chapter. So is there anything of note in this chapter to you guys?

(barking in the background)

Ali: Well, it’s all very reminiscent of, you know, Shakespeare, in the 12th Night sense, or Prince and the Pauper, where it’s like, we’re going to switch and no one’s going to know, antics will ensue. It’s a classic Shakespearean-esq comedy set up.

Bree: They Parent Trapped Coram.

Aradia: Oh, my God, they totally did.

Bree: Can I talk about point of view? I have got to say y’all, I forgot how head hoppy books used to be. Just ping ponging, back and forth in and out of people’s heads with no transitions. And Melanie Rawn was never like that, Melanie Rawn is pretty deep into her point of views and I feel like she executes these like, smooth maneuvers where she pulls out of someone’s point of view into a more omniscient thing and then goes into someone else’s.

And she doesn’t do it super often. But when I first started reading, I was just distracted because I felt like, Oh my God, we’re just going to get everybody’s internal thoughts in this scene. We’re just going to bounce around in and out of people’s heads. And I was – that used to – I never would have noticed that, I didn’t remember it at all. I mean, but now I notice it because now I am a writer and I’ve been writing for a long time. And deep point of view is so much more than in vogue right now, where you get really deep into someone’s head and you avoid any sort of omniscient or any sort of out of character knowledge, basically.

But like this, we’re on the road and we get Alanna’s thoughts on Coram and we got Coram’s thoughts on Alanna. And I was like, Oh my God, what’s happening? But I got used to it really fast because of course, the book just started to sweep me away again and I was very excited. But yeah.

Ali: Yeah, I didn’t notice that until you brought it up. But she really said, omniscient.

Bree: Yeah.

Aradia: Yeah. Not omnipresent, but omniscient.

Bree: I am in everybody’s head, and you’re in everybody’s head. And I was like, Okay, let’s do this.

Aradia: Yeah, I’m glad you pointed that out because I couldn’t put my finger on why this felt so different. Like, obviously there’s the YA pacing of it, but like, there’s something else. I’m like, this just feels not like more modern books that I’ve read. I have no language to articulate what that is. And what you just said is like, Yeah, that, that I’m feeling that. But I have no language to say what it is. So thank you for articulating it.

The thing that really struck me about this section is just everyone’s ages, because Alanna gets presented as a very fully formed and independent person who’s got a certain level of world weariness, and like, she is ten! And like, yes, did I feel like a world weary person who was bearing the weight of the world at the age of ten? Yes. Yes, I did. But it’s wild to read it now as a 30 something.

Bree: I’m like, Hey, Coram. What’s up?

Aradia: You’re ten! Like, I remember feeling that was right when I was ten. But like, it’s wild.

Ali: Yeah, it’s – why I think Tamora Pierce did it, because I get so annoyed with some people writing for children, because it feels like they talk down to them, you know what I mean? It feels very, adult talking to a child, but it feels like we’ve forgotten how it feels to be that age. And when you’re ten, you’re like, I would go to my mom and be like, You can tell me the details of your divorce. I’m ten, I can handle it. You know what I mean?

Bree: Yes.

Aradia: Mhm.

Ali: And I’m like. No darling, you’re ten. You just hit double digits. It doesn’t mean anything else. Yeah, you think that you are a fully formed person at ten, which is why I think this book speaks to ten year olds. Because it’s like, something is taking this as seriously as I’m taking me.

Aradia: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bree: Also, I do think we were all an older ten.

Ali: And yeah, I mean, I do think that media for children should treat them as full people because they are full people. They are full people. They’re just also a blueprint of the person they will be.

Aradia: Right. And you take yourself that seriously. Regardless of whether or not that’s practical, YOU take yourself that seriously. So yeah, being talked down to just will not do. And then on the flip side, I always saw Coram and Maude as like, old people.

Ali: Yes.

Aradia: And then as an adult, I’m doing the math and I’m like, they’re in their forties at most.

Bree: Yeah.

Ali: Because they call Coram Boy. And I was like, Hang on, how old is he? Because I was like, Wizard. Wizened with age.

Aradia: Yeah. I’m like, He’s crusty old guy. And he even in the future chapter says like, Oh, it was 20 years since I was last in the Army. But like, you can be in the army at 20.

Ali: Yeah. And he was a very young guy when he did that, because he saved somebody’s life. But he’s like, I’m surprised you remember. I was a young nobody. He’s like, Oh, of course. So I was like, We could be kind of of an age, which is weird to think about.

Aradia: Yeah, yeah. And like, if you read the Daine books like – spoilers, neither Coram nor Maude dies, you know, they’re there, tangentially in the future, in a different frickin series that jumps forward in time – like they’re not old, that are empirically not old. They’re like our age.

Ali: Yeah, which is so weird.

Aradia: And I always imagined them as, like, wizened old lady, like, barely able to move with arthritis, like, hunched over the fire? Like, no, she’s a normal adult.

Ali: It’s so wild about watching, like, movies you loved when you were young and then starting to identify more and more with the parents or adults in the room, where you’re like, Yeah, you shouldn’t just skip school, Bueller. Someone needs to know where you are. You’re a child. Or with the Parent Trap where you’re like, This this arrangement is completely fucked up. And I’m actually not on their side. Like, you know, that kind of stuff. And yeah, so it was very full circle to go, Oh, I’m now at an age where I’m like, Maude and Coram and I could be pals.

Aradia: Right, right, right, exactly, exactly.

Ali: How brutal!

Aradia: And then, and then the final age question. How, how, how old is George? Because I’ve never been able to tell how old he is.

Bree: I feel like I always thought he was like 17, maybe?

Ali. Young!

Bree: For some reason that number is sticking out to me. I feel like I must have done George math at some point, and I feel like maybe he is 17 when he meets her.

Ali: Yeah, I seem to recall.

Aradia: Okay. And I am like, 17 is too old to be hitting on ten.

Ali: But I don’t know if he was hitting on her.

Aradia: No, he’s not. But like, when she turns 11 he is. So.

Bree: Okay, well, we’ll have to see. I think that he is 16 or 17. Yeah, he’s too old. He’s too old. But, you know.

Aradia: The thing is that he is the King of the Rogues and that’s – again, he has this world weary, I’ve been doing this shit for a long time, energy. And I’m like, How long can you have been King of the Rogues if you are not even 20? Like, where is this world weariness coming from?

Bree: Yes, but come on, man, When’s the last time you talked to a 17 year old? Talk about world weary.

Ali: They’re the weary of us all.

Aradia: But I’m like, literally how long could he have been King?

Bree: Probably not very long. But, you know.

Aradia: Literally.

Bree: Also, you know, it doesn’t matter.

Ali: I go, now double it, and you got me. When they come to me and they’re like, Ah, the world is so hard and I’m so tired. Listen, it’s true. I would not go back to being 17 if you paid me so much money. Like, I would never do it. I would never go back to that time because I’m like, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at 31, the only age that I ever want to be is 31. And if it gets better from here, then bring it on. But like, you know, 17 was not fun to be. So I get it, because, I don’t know. I feel like your life becomes more full the minute that you get to decide what’s in it. In so many ways, you have so much more control and power over what your life becomes. But at the same time, your skin is unwrinkled and people are making sure you get sleep and are fed because it’s the law. So I don’t know.

Bree: Well, he definitely lived hard. Whatever 17 years he had, they were hard years.

Ali: Oh, yeah.

Aradia: Sure.

Ali: There is such thing as a hard 17.

Aradia: That is true. Just he gets presented as such a man person, and I always do the math and I’m like, Either he stops aging for several years for Alanna to catch up, or he’s really not a man, actually? Like, everyone is younger than I vibe –

Bree: Well, I mean, she’s not an adult when she’s doing all the adult things. Yes, I mean, that makes total sense, though. You know, Alanna felt like she was a grown ass person when I was reading these books and she definitely was not. Cause I’m talking about like the Squire, because that’s the first one I read. So she was my age. It’s when I was 15 when I read that. And that was like her 14 year old era, right? So like, yeah, she was my age and I was like, Yeah, this all checks out? Save the country, please do that. Appropriate amount of responsibility.

Aradia: But yeah, it definitely sets up that expectation that, like, grown men should be hitting on children, like, right out of the gate. That’s normal. It’s normal for men who are significantly older than you to wink at you.

Bree: Okay, let’s talk about our unproblematic queen. Our days of May-December romances are certainly coming to a middle. Tamora Pierce is kind of the queen of this. She has other series that are far more alarming.

Ali: Well, they’re coming to a middle and they’re also not, because we’re getting 19 year old women with thousand year old men. So like I, mean –

Aradia: Bree.

Bree: I am the problem. The problem is me. Hello.

Ali: It’s me. Hi, I’m the problem. It’s me.

Bree: Yes.

Ali: Oh, my brother in law got that for me – we did Secret Santa this year because my family is getting too big to buy presents for everyone – He got me and he got a Taylor Swift, It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s Me, embroidered pillow. And I was like, very thoughtful. Love it. On the other hand, is this a diss?

Bree: Please, someone get me one. I think that’s what I need.

Ali: I’ll get you one.

Bree: And I mean, is the reason I am writing that because I imprinted on these books at 14? I don’t know!

Ali: Could be.

Bree: Definitely normalized it.

Ali: But yeah, I do think that as a whole we’re having a larger conversation as to like, what age it starts to be a little icky. And definitely, 17 and ten –

Aradia: I mean, it’s not really flirting. I’m being a little exaggeratey by calling it super flirting, but also because of where it goes, it’s hard not to see it as flirty from the jump. You know.

Ali: I forgot that George is a love interest.

Aradia: Oh, yeah, he’s a love interest.

Ali: Oh. Huh.

Bree: I don’t remember the early interaction, so I’m going to have to see. Because I don’t think he’s done anything wrong yet.

Aradia: At this point no, at this point he is very much just being friendly to a young scamp of a boy who just came into town. He doesn’t know she’s a girl. He’s just being friendly to someone he might meet later. Like, it’s just hard not to read into it.

Ali: Sure.

Aradia: But literally, she is in boy mode. So, yeah, literally what happens in this chapter is, they do the switch, they do the travel. She convinces Coram to be on board, and we see Corus. And we also get a nice prophetic vision – which Bree, I know we’ve been talking book covers in the discord, and one of the book cover translations is for the Black City. And you were saying you don’t remember there being a black city, but we get a vision of a black city. So have those synapses refired yet?

Bree: I have a vague, vague, like I have one memory. And it’s just I have this mental picture of Jon and Alanna sneaking out to go somewhere. But I don’t remember where or why or what’s going on in the black city. I don’t know, is it like Shadar Logoth, is it like some haunted city? Is it cursed? Why are they going there? No fucking idea. Maybe it will come back to me. But right now, Nope. Nope. I don’t even know if they really do sneak out. Maybe they’re sneaking out somewhere else. I feel like they do a lot of sneaking in these books, so.

Aradia: Our protagonist being sneaky? What? I love that. Well, all of you who know, you know, and the rest of you, we’re all going to find out.

Ali: The only thing I also remember is, I think the father finds out at some point, because he’s like, I have no son named Alan.

Bree: I mean, this happens in chapter two, or chapter three.

Aradia: That happens in chapter two.

Ali: No, but there’s a big moment, I feel like. There was like a fight –

Aradia: Yes, there is a big reveal because, of course, there has to be.

Ali: Right. And I feel like there was like, something got cut and like, a little boob maybe pops out at some point. I don’t remember exactly.

Bree: None of this is ringing a bell either.

Aradia: Yeah, something vaguely like that may have happened.

Ali: There’s, like, a side boob reveal?

Aradia: Little bit. Yeah, maybe a skosh of that.

Ali: A skosh of side boob or something like that happens.

Aradia: How am I supposed to guslight you when you have actually read the books? This is a very weird balance.

Bree: I mean, I feel like right now the black city is open for a lot of – just absolutely confused the shit out of me because I do not. It’s kind of driving me crazy. I do remember it at all.

Ali: We’ll have to RAFO, again.

Bree: Yeah, I guess.

Aradia: Again, again.

Bree: We’ll read and find out.

Aradia: RrrrrAFO.

Ali: I feel like they do say George’s age and he’s in his teens. Like late teens.

Aradia: That sounds right.

Ali: I feel like 17 did sound right to me.

Bree: I think they say it later and I did backwards math, I think is what happened. They say his age at some point for sure.

Aradia: Sure.

Bree: So I guess we’ll just have to wait and then start mathing.

Ali: See when the math maths.

Aradia: So is there anything else in chapter one?

Bree: I see your notes. Have to paying back death with healing. I forgot she could heal. I forgot that whole thing too.

Ali: I forgot that too!

Aradia: Yeah. There’s a whole thing about how Alanna is very resistant to use her magic, but is very powerful. Her and Thom are both extremely magical twinsies, with purple eyes and red hair, and they’re just so fantasy –

Ali: Ah, the classic purple eyes –

Bree: That was before it was classic.

Ali: The classic red hair.

Bree: I love this though.

Aradia: This is how it becomes classic.

Bree: This, literally. She did this before it was a trope. And then all of us who grew up on her immediately started doing it too. And now it’s a cliche, but it was not a cliche in 1983.

Aradia: It’s like reading Tolkien and being like, Oh, my God, elves and hobbits and dwarves. This is so cliche. I mean, like, No, no, no, no. Tolkien was laying the groundwork for all those cliches. So, yeah. Alanna hates her power and yet is extremely powerful and yeah, can heal. And so she and she wants to go into the death business. So Maude’s like, If you’re going to go into the death business, you got to at least make an effort at being able to use your gift, both literally and with a capital G, to heal people. Whereas Thom’s just like, Give me all the power and then give me some more. Thom is not scared of his power, which is why he wants to go be a sorcerer instead of a knight.

Bree: Yes. I don’t remember much about the religion, they mention that there’s like temples to like 100 gods in Corus, but Maude’s definitely got some real, someone’s got a ledger and you better make equal payments to your death withdrawals or you’re going to a hellish place. So there are some real overtones there. That was, that made me wonder. I’m like, what is the rest of the religion? Because I know In The Hand Of The Goddess is the title of book two and I – vague memories that that is important.

Aradia: Yeah. It’s a very living pantheon of beings that engage with the world. So it’s like, it’s not just on faith. Like you can literally be in the hand of the goddess, in every sense of the word. But yeah, also people of different patrons, it doesn’t seem like there’s any one true religion shit, like, it’s a pantheon.

Ali: We love a pantheon.

Aradia: I love pantheons.

Ali: Yeah, I’m a little – okay, because I don’t remember her identifying this hard with the adults when I was young – but I imagined how stressful it would be to be like, I am employed, I have a job, I have to go do the job. And this kid’s like, I’m going to make you trip balls if you don’t do what I want.

Bree: You’re going to hallucinate monsters for the rest of your life. Coram man, I want to hug Coram so much.

Aradia: Coram puts up with a lot, he has already put up with a lot as of chapter one, you can tell he has put up with a lot. He has got gray hairs from these kids already.

Ali: He’s stressed. My man Coram is stressed, and I agree. I would be stressed too. Children are difficult enough without them also having powers.

Aradia: Right. Right.

Ali: There is this whole part of the Apocrypha in the Bible that talks about young Jesus with powers. And it’s actually hysterical because he’s such a little shit?

Bree: Wouldn’t you be though?

Aradia: Of course he was! He’s human.

Ali: This kid annoys him. He kills the kid. Everyone’s upset and he’s like, whatever. And he, like, resurrects the kid. He’s like, boom, whatever.

Bree: Sorry!

Aradia: Love it.

Ali: Sorry, I didn’t realize.

Bree: Yep, yep.

Ali: Yeah. So, I mean, same deal. Thank God we don’t have children with magical powers, that would be so stressful.

Aradia: Right?

Bree: There the worst! And there’s no – often your magic that comes with puberty is like, a big trope, but this is not a thing here, apparently. These kids have been, like, wreaking havoc with this magic for, you know, to aid their young 5 to 10 year old kitchen thefts and stuff, tormenting the cook.

Ali: Bold of your stepmom to give you a book in which they scare away a stepmom.

Aradia: I don’t think she read it. I think she was just being a good feminist stepmom.

Ali: I don’t think she did. Not too closely anyway.

Aradia: She wanted me to be empowered, you know, there was a sword on the front.

Ali: So they’re out here basically doing mafia stuff, like, don’t tell my father, don’t be an informant, don’t be a snitch. Or else, horse head in the bed. That’s what Alanna is up to!

Aradia: Basically. She will do what she has to do.

Bree: (deep voice) You’ll sleep with the fishes.

Ali: Yeah, exactly. She’s reluctant to use powers, until it really benefits her.

Aradia: As most reluctant-to-touch-their-power magic people are in stories.

0:41:36 Music break. Chapter 2: Give me a broken nosed poor guy who does a really illicit job

Aradia: Chapter two: The New Page. We introduce a larger stage and a larger cast. We’re getting to the palace. We’re getting settled in. We’re meeting our teachers, our fellow students, our antagonists.

Ali: We’ve got to have a kid that hates us for no reason. We’ve got to.

Aradia: Have to.

Bree: Absolutely.

Ali: And really, this one with the least reason I’ve ever seen.

Aradia: You exist!

Ali: She was truly just walking.

Aradia: And you’d want to blame misogyny. But she’s a boy, so it’s literally just being a shithead.

Ali: He’s pissed she’s walking while tiny.

Bree: Yes.

Ali: And it’s just like, What is this energy? I guess I just don’t have any energy, as someone with fibro I have no fucking energy and I never have. And so when people go out of their way to be this much of a dick to somebody for walking while tiny, I’m like, Where do you get this energy from? Like, how do you have the time? How do you have the stamina? I want to go to bed when I wake up. So I don’t have time to bully people. I don’t have time. I got to get in what I can get in while I’m awake.

Bree: Bullying people does seem exhausting, honestly. I just feel like, I don’t know, like you have to do – And he’s so committed to this bullying that he’s literally setting himself up to be bullied by everyone up the hierarchy, which seems to be everyone. So maybe that’s his problem. Maybe it’s just like, Finally someone I can punch! Because the prince does not like him.

Ali: Oh, I totally had a bully like this in middle school where, just like for some reason it was like the minute she saw me, she didn’t like me and just went and made my life hell. And it’s honestly a little flattering, how into hating me she was. How rent free I lived in that girl’s head, to the point where she was like, I should send her a letter with blood on it to show her I’m serious.

Aradia: Wow.

Ali: I was like, that’s so much for middle school, where I’m like, the stakes are literally first kiss level. Do you know what – the stakes are like, will I get in line for lunch early enough that I get a hamburger instead of whatever the second option is? That’s the stakes we are talking about. So then you’re going to come into that with this kind of energy? God bless. Like, Oh, wow, What’s stamina, what energy you have.

Aradia: Right? And for the prince to be like, I do not like you. You are a problem. I’m disciplining you for the umpteenth time, and he’d be like, (mocking boy voice) I’m gonna keep being this way! It’s like, Why are you here, bro?

Ali: Like, get a hobby. I feel like bullying is so silly. Like, it’s serious, it’s a serious issue and it’s a problem. But at the same time, when you think about it deeply, you’re like, what a silly, dumb waste of time really, for yourself to be that much of a hater is silly. It’s silly.

Aradia: Yeah. It’s a waste of your life. Literally.

Ali: Learn to crochet. Get a dog. Anything, are you so bored and without anything else. better to do? There’s so many cool books. I don’t know. It’s sad and it’s silly and it’s weird.

Aradia: But it’s a good contrast to Jon, our quintessential heroic prince, who comes in with his beautiful blue eyes and his perfect black hair and his excellent nobility. And everyone likes him and he’s tall and he’s just such a quintessential prince. And just like, all the everyone’s swooned everywhere, because that’s what you’re supposed to do for a character like that. It’s like a thing.

Bree: The second I met him, I disliked him. I did not like Jon when I first read. Oh, I did not.

Aradia: I figured you would, because you have the right taste.

Bree: You know how I am.

Ali: You don’t like Jonathan?

Bree: No, I do not like royalty. The minute they introduced one guy who is like a street kid with a too big nose and not handsome, and the other guy was the perfect, beautiful prince, I was like, Give me the street kid. That was just. That is my vibe and has been my vibe since forever. I do not like royalty. I do not like pretty people. I’m sorry. Give me a broken nosed poor guy who does a really illicit job.

Aradia: Okay, Birgitte.

Bree: This is why my profile said rocks are hot. Just I have a thing, and this thing has been my thing forever.

Aradia: See, I have really struggled to figure out what my thing is. So this book presented me with both options, and I said, Yes. I had no – like the concept of picking sides, of being Team George, Team Jon. I’m just like, I’m into whoever’s on page right now because I’m impressionable and do not have any internal sense of identity whatsoever, at all.

Ali: I looked at Jonathan and I was like, an age appropriate handsome boy, of course. Excellent. We love. And then I looked at George and I was like, a doll! He stood up for her!

Bree: No, I am going to say, I wanted to say, I feel bad for how anti Jon I was, having read these three chapters. Because he’s nice and he’s responsible with his power. If you have to have a king or a prince dude, at least let him be Jonathan. But, you know, in my teen years I was just like, nyah, nyah, give me a thief.

Aradia: The older I get, the less enamored I am with the royalty characters. I used to think, you know, like, oh, the concept of royalty is like, it’s fine. It’s a bit tropey and stale, but it’s fine. And the older I get, the more cranky I get about it, and the more I’m like, Fuck the king, we need anarchy. Why do we even have this shit? Fuck these tropes. Like, more and more so. I like him less just because I’m like, God, you’re such a fucking trope. I’m just mad at him for setting the standard. But like, yeah, you’re right. If you’re going to have a king, Jon is like what you would want.

Bree: He is responsible with his power and I like that. So, good job Jonathan. I’m sorry for my childhood disdain for your pretty face.

Ali: I am shocked. I’m shocked. I guess that I am someone who is not picky. I’m like, you stand up for me. We’re cool, man. Like, I don’t know. Justice for Jon. Wow.

Bree: Yes. Baby Bree was so judgmental.

Ali: I could build a life with Jon!

Bree: I had strong opinions.

Ali: Apparently! Wow! I am shocked, because I’m like, Jon seems like an upstanding young man –

Aradia: And the age appropriate nature. Definitely. I was like, well, instantly, obviously crushing on him. Obviously, Alanna is going to crush on him, because he’s exactly the right amount older. Like it’s perfect.

Ali: Like, I guess I’m like, Who am I married to? Like, of course I’m like, He stood up for me and has, like, nice morals!

Aradia: Yeah, well, you know. You know what you want and you got it.

Bree: Well, I would like to point out I’m not married to a criminal. I’m married to a middle school teacher. Like this is my fictional –

Ali: That’s true. But it’s funny because I’m playing Baldur’s Gate right now, and, you know, Gus was like, Apparently all the girlies are obsessed with Astarion. And I was going in very much expecting that – I’m romancing Gale, I’m risking it all for Gale!

Bree: I made Gale mad the other day.

Ali: You did? What you do, what you do to my boy Gale, my boo?

Bree: Listen, my character that I made has resting bitch face and I feel like I just need to embody that because she just looks mad all the time. So she was glaring at Gale, so I might have, while we were psychically connected, imagined his head on a pike. I mean, I just felt like that was the thing.

Ali: What? During the little cute scene? Oh my God, why would you do that to Gale?

Bree: Because my character is a very cranky assassin.

Ali: Oh, my God! I imagined us kissing! I was like, Look, kiss.

Aradia: This is the strongest argument yet I’ve heard for why I should get involved in this Baldur’s Gate business everyone’s talking about.

Bree: You should.

Ali: You absolutely should. I’m fucking down with Baldur’s Gate. Well, actually, you shouldn’t, because, Bye, all of your responsibilities, bye, all of –

Bree: I’m trying to start a business, dammit!

Ali: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It is hyper fixation bait, for sure. But also, if you play, I need to know every decision you make. I need to know everything you do. I need to know who you’re romancing. Lae’zel and I had a fling.

Aradia: I am going to investigate the possibility of sacrificing my life on the altar of Baldur’s Gate to be like all my friends.

Bree: I’m making very bad progress because I’m still just touching everything in the game. Just like everything. Everything. I have to touch everything.

Ali: You’re touching everything?

Bree: Yes. Everything. I just pick up like, crates and throw them, pick up barrels and throw them. Then started on fire. Look in everything, every single face, pick up every potato. I just have to touch everything. So it’s taking some time.

Ali: You’re thorough. You’re a thorough player. You’re getting your money’s worth out of the game, is what I’m hearing.

Bree: Very much so.

Ali: I’m still in act one.

Bree: Though I didn’t even pay for it. Someone gifted it to me. And I thank you, Bryan, for doing that for everybody. And Bluesky, I’m tweeting – posting, whatever you do on Bluesky – my life run through and apparently entertaining people quite a bit because I’m making terrible choices, consistently.

Ali: I love that. I love that you’re making terrible – apparently I am also making terrible choices because I was talking to somebody – and I won’t do a spoiler – but I was talking to somebody and they were like, I can’t wait to do like a chaos run where I do like a bunch of dumb things, like – and then she said something that I literally had just done in the game, and I was like, And that was a completely reasonable decision. So I was like, All right.

Aradia: That’s amazing.

Ali: Guess I’m doing a dumb run.

Bree: Although, Ali, Bluesky does not like Gale, Bluesky hates Gale. Everybody on Bluesky was yelling at me not to get near Gale.

Ali: So what has my boy done, other than eat a shoe on occasion. Truly, justice for Gale. Gus sent me a video the other day, by the way, on TikTok, of Gale – and apparently you can swap their outfits with each other. So Gale was wearing Shadowheart’s pants.

Bree: Oh, man. Fancy pants.

Ali: And I was just saying, putting that man in a robe is a crime. Putting that man in a robe is not supporting women. I have a lot of issues now with the fact that they had all that he has going on under a robe, absolutely unacceptable. I will be writing to the developers to voice my displeasure because it is not supporting women. It is not for the girls.

Bree: Apparently not.

Ali: The straight girlies. Well, the bisexual girlies.That’s so weird. Okay, now I have to hop on Bluesky and defend my boy Gale, what is going on? Why don’t they like him?

Aradia: Well, I want to reel us back to Tortall, if I can.

Bree: Yes.

Aradia: I’ve been trying to find a good segue. It’s not presenting itself. I’m just going to aggressively shove myself in here.

Bree: Get us in headlocks.

Ali: Apparently, I am a Gale and Jonathan girl.

Aradia: There we go. There’s our connection back.

Bree: Have you heard that algebra is useful?

Ali: Algebra?

Bree: Apparently, algebra is useful.

Aradia: Algebra, it can make windmills work.

Bree: That’s what the book says.

Aradia: I did enjoy that little dig for school.

Ali: Algebra is useful. Stay in school, children, stay in school.

Aradia: Yeah. I do like that Alanna is forced to have an academic career alongside her nightly career. I do like that we get, you know, Tamora Pierce being like, No, no, no. You can’t just be brawn. You have to be brains, too.

Ali: And we get women in STEM.

Aradia: And we also meet a very important teacher of hers, Myles of Olau.

Bree: Myles.

Aradia: I love Myles so much. This is, he will be with us for a bit.

Bree: I forgotten him too. I had forgotten Myles, too.

Aradia: Yeah?

Bree: And now I’m like, Is he that guy or is he from a different series? So like, now I think I’ve got a vague memory, but clearly not enough of one. So, yay Myles, he seemed fun. I like that he was critiquing the system, because if I had been Alanna, I would have been fucking out of there the first time someone gave me too much homework to do and then gave me more homework for not doing the too much homework. I would have been like, nope!

Aradia: I know! Right? When Alanna was like, I’m protesting unfair treatment? I was like, Yeah, girl, this is ridiculous. This is insane. I could not stand it. My internal sense of justice and fairness would not allow me to tolerate the sort of ridiculous system that they have, that you’re just supposed to be behind.

Bree: This was kind of what the end of my computer science degree was like. We had several teachers who basically acted like this. Like, I got a 57 in one of my classes because they would just do things like where it was impossible to do all the homework or to get good grades on the tests and they just like, make you do it anyway. And then like they would, you know, scale things heavily. So it was very common for the highest score in the class to be like a 68 or something. Because they just, they tried to break your spirit. And I feel like that is the worst educational method that is imaginable. But I don’t know.

Aradia: Yeah, it’s bad.

Bree: You taught, Ali.

Ali: I believe in breaking children down, actually.

Bree: Oh, is that your thing?

Aradia: Oh, that. That makes sense. That does actually track with your personality.

Ali: I believe that children should be seen and not heard. And I definitely support corporal punishment. (all laugh) I support none of those things. I love children.

Aradia: (speaks really fast) Legally, that is a joke.

Ali: Yes, for legal reasons, that is a joke. I loved teaching. Yeah, I just also was like, my dream is writing and if I’m not achieving my dreams, how can I teach my students to follow theirs?

Bree: Awww!

Ali: So I left. Plus, I lost my job during the pandemic. But yeah, I loved teaching. I love writing for children. Despite the amount of F-bombs that I drop. Actually, you’d be surprised how many F-bombs are dropped, when you’re talking about writing for kids. Behind the scenes. Not, you know,in a mean way, just when you had students or teachers write for children, sometimes you’re like, I also need my adult time and I need to throw an F-bomb around sometimes, you know what I mean?

Bree: That makes sense. You got an have an outlet.

Ali: Yeah, you have to have an outlet for your, like, adult brain, adult feelings. You know what I mean? Like, let teachers be full, well-rounded individuals with, like, adult lives.

Aradia: No, they power down at the end of the school day like robots and just make stay in the school. Never go grocery shopping. That’s weird.

Ali: Yeah. It’s like, sometimes you’re like, I just need to drop an F-bomb. What’s an F-bomb among adults? Like, it’s not like you’re doing it in front of the kids. You just got to sometimes, like, go and say an F word. One time I was teaching and it was a really long day. And this is back when I was into true crime. And now I have morals about it. But back when I was into true crime, my friend found me in a corner, like by myself under the stairwell. And I was listening to something. She goes, What are you listening to? And I was like, A murder podcast. I needed something grown up to consume. For just a minute. Because I was teaching the five year olds and I was like, I just needa minute where I am by myself listening to something grown up, just for me. And she was like, I get it! So it’s the both of us cracking up, because she’s like, I can’t believe you’re listening to a murder podcast after teaching five year olds, and I was like, I just have to, I have to contain the multitudes of my personality. Yeah. No, I don’t think it’s chill to try to break a child’s spirit. And I feel like she just got here.

Aradia: Boot camp. You got to survive hell week.

Ali: There’s no like, All right, so these are our expectations. It’s just, You didn’t meet our expectations. F. Do more work. I don’t know. She’s ten!

Aradia: But do you think that maybe it’s important for people who are going to have a monopoly on violence moving forward as adults to really understand discipline? Kind of like an Aes Sedai, We have to traumatize you worse than anyone’s ever been traumatized in order to make sure that you won’t traumatize people, kind of thing. Like, do you think this is helpful?

Ali: I mean, sure. But like, can work life balance also be a thing? You know, especially for a ten year old?

Bree: I don’t know if traumatizing people has ever made them better at dealing with other people. I’m not sure that it has. I’m not sure that it’s ever made them kinder, more compassionate people. I feel like it makes them into, I put up with five times worse than this, you little shit! I feel like that’s the direction it tends to go in.

Aradia: Yeah.

Ali: Yeah. I saw this great TikTok that was somebody shaking a plant really hard and they’re like, I’m traumatizing them, so the world won’t traumatize them as hard! I think it really doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t make sense. It’s like, I think there’s a difference between discipline and cruelty.

Bree: I think at one point they literally think that they’re just being taught to take a lot of shit and not complain about it.

Ali: Which I mean, I guess, if you’re a soldier, you do have to kind of – you can’t be upset when you’re going through the trenches, because that’s kind of what you’ve been signed up for?

Bree: But these are the knights who are supposed to lead, man. Do we really want them to be, like, emotionally dysfunctional? I feel like I’m a little worried about this.

Ali: Yeah. I mean, I feel like there’s got to be some balance here between – give them a little art therapy, you know, a little regular therapy…

Aradia: Also, we have the looming impending idea of the trial of Knighthood that waits at the end of all this. If you survive all of this, then you get to try to survive the Ordeal, whatever the fuck that is.

Bree: The capital o, Ordeal.

Ali: Also, survive is a big word for me. I’m like, Why do ten year olds need to survive anything?

Aradia: Yeah.

Ali: I feel like a child does not need to survive anything. They just need to play.

Bree: Oh Ali, don’t worry. They’re 18 when they do it.

Aradia: They just, at ten, get told that they might die at 18.

Bree: It’s fine.

Ali: I don’t like we’re letting children break each other’s arms and we’re like, We can’t interfere. We can’t interfere. I’m a, Can’t we? We’re the adults in the room. I don’t care what your rank, if I saw a ten year old beating the shit out of another ten year old, I’d be like, Stop, Don’t do that.

1:20:24 Music break. Chapter 3: Nobody is taller than you after you’ve broken their knee

Aradia: Yeah. So that does take us into chapter three, which is Ralon, the bullying arc that I referenced at the top, where we basically get Alanna being presented with and defeating a villain, and also kind of overcoming her own self-doubt in the process. But yeah, as Ali said, the adults are just like, This is fine. She’s, he’s being beaten to a pulp repeatedly. It’s fine. We’re just going to allow this toxic masculinity to brew unchecked. He says he fell down. It’s fine. It’s fine.

Bree: Yeah, that right there. If Alanna had complained, if she had complained, he would be punished. But she doesn’t because it is clearly seen as encouraged even, because they’re accepting this ridiculous excuse when they all know what the truth is, over and over. It is accepted for this to just keep going on and seen as literal snitching if they have forced the parents to intervene.

Ali: The patriarchy is stupid.

Bree: (stage whispers) So stupid.

Ali: The patriarchy is so stupid. It’s so stupid.

Aradia: Bad. It’s bad!

Ali: Because this is what it does, this is what it does. It makes it so you can’t tell anyone your problems, because it’s snitching or whatever. And I’m like, No, the adults in the room’s job, their job, is to protect you from your own stupidity. That is the job of adults – and children do stupid things all the time. All the time. because they don’t understand. Like, I had a kid stick a pencil in another kid’s ear.

Arada: Ow!

Ali: Kid was fine, but like, it hurt. And so they cried. The kid’s, like, eight, didn’t realize it would hurt them.

Aradia: Yeah. And to support your love of Jon, Jon has your opinion about this and he fucking takes matters into his own hands –

Ali: I like Jon!

Aradia: – and he uses the other kids to, like, hold Ralon down and beat the shit out of him. So that way he feels like he has to keep his bullying within reasonable tolerance, it’s the other kids who lay down that barrier. That boundary.

Ali: Yeah, but I’m like, it should be the adults that are creating boundaries and consequences. This is the thing. This is the thing. The teacher knows that Alanna is getting the shit kicked out of her, right? Or Alan, or it’s the Duke, or whatever knows that that’s happening and Alanna is a little sarcastic, like drops a little bit of a joke about it. And then he’s like, more homework for you, scamp. And I’m like, Uhm!

Aradia: Not a responsible adult thing from where we’re sitting.

Bree: No, they’re all like, so proud of him because he’s being chivalrous, in the sense of sticking to these rules of chivalry that Myles so hates. Myles is a legend for this. I don’t even remember Myles, but I’m assuming he’s a legend for this because he thinks this is all stupid.

Aradia: He is, absolutely.

Bree: And like, go team Myles. I agree with you, Myles. This is all stupid. I would be drinking if they were making me watch it, too.

Aradia: Right, yeah.

Ali: It’s stupid.

Bree: Before we go too far into this chapter, I just want to say this. I highlighted: “She was dreaming of the horse she would someday own.” Alanna is doing Fantasy Horse Casting!

Aradia: Woot woot woot!

Ali: Thank you. Thank you, Alanna, for supporting me in my ongoing dispute with Gus about whether or not it’s normal to think about your fantasy horse. Alanna is on my side. Therefore, Nananananana.

Aradia: Well, in fairness, she actually will be buying a horse someday as her actual mode of transportation.

Bree: Yes. And she is going to get to buy a horse. So I’m excited for that, because there’s a lot of horses on the covers. So I feel like –

Aradia: It’s going to happen.

Bree: I remember that we have a obligatory horsey tribe in this series, desert tribe, and I think there are horseys hanging with them.

Ali: I don’t remember that.

Bree: Everybody’s got an obligatory desert tribe.

Aradia: Yeah. Our Bedouin knockoffs.

Bree: Yeah, but we’re not there yet, so.

Aradia: We’ll get there by the end of this book.

Bree: Poor frickin Alanna. I don’t like any – I do like, of course, because here’s where I love George. I love that George is like, I’m going to teach you. I’m gonna fuck this little shit up!

All: Yeah!

Bree: And George starts teaching her all the dirty tricks.

Aradia: Hand-to-hand combat, rogue style.

Ali: Rogue style!

Aradia: I also do like that she becomes ambidextrous as a result of this because her right arm gets broken. She’s forced to learn how to use things with her left hand, and as a left handed person like I’ll take any representation I can get. And I love that she’s an ambidextrous warrior.

Ali: We do love an ambidextrous queen.

Bree: Well, it does show how tenacious she is.

Ali: Yeah, I love that she is like, You know what? There’s an advantage to be found here. Even though this is shit. And it’s true. Because you know what? They’re not going to see that coming.

Aradia: Yeah. Like, as a physically small warrior, she knows she has to find ways to level up to take advantage of larger men. Like, no matter how good her girl disguise is, her bones are not going to get any bigger, right? Like she’s going to be a little person.

Ali: Well, I mean, they’re probably going to get a little bit bigger than you are at ten, but like, not by a ton.

Aradia: Yeah, she’s a – her and Thom both seem to be rather slight built people. They’re not like Berserkers. So she knows she’s going to have to go up against some real big tanks at some point. So it’s like, well, all right. I guess fighting with my left hand is going to be one of the things. And then, yeah, having like, rogue tricks. And we get our first mention of Shang Warriors as being these martial art people that seem vaguely Asian coded, because the word Shang feels Asian and they’re hand-to-hand combat masters.

Bree: I am going to say I remember – that’s one of the things I remember from book four. So I do remember him, but I won’t say anymore. I don’t remember much about, but I remember. I mean, I was a future romance author.

Ali: Did you know that the reason we have men’s and women’s sports in the Olympics, like it’s men’s or women’s instead of competing together, is because the women started beating the men and so then they separated them into two different categories.

Aradia: That tracks.

Bree: That seems about right.

Ali: I read that and I was like, this there’s an example. It was fine when the men were beating the women and the women weren’t getting any medals, but now they’re like, Oh, it’s for the women. It’s because the women need to win too.

Aradia: To protect them from the big, strong men.

Ali: And it’s like, no, actually it was the patriarchy couldn’t handle that they were losing to women. And so they made women’s categories that had to be separate. And also did you know, after a certain amount of distance, women are actually faster runners than men. That’s interesting. Like, once you reach past marathon distance, like when you get to ultramarathons, women tend to be on average faster than men.

Aradia: That’s interesting.

Ali: Isn’t that weird?

Aradia: Well, I mean, we do have stronger legs. So – but I, the concept of running bothers me, so I know nothing about it.

Ali: The concept of running, as someone who’s run more than one marathon, and has fucked up her body because of it – the concept of running anything more than a marathon, like an ultramarathon. I’m like, Why? For what purpose?

Bree: I have a friend whose husband runs like, high altitude ultramarathons or whatever. Bananas, multi-day shit, up and down mountains. And I’m always just like, it seems so intense! But the people who do it are into it. So, you know, godspeed y’all. I mean, I have weird hobbies, too.

Ali: And they love it, and they love it.

Aradia: Takes all kinds.

Ali: Couldn’t be me, but happy for you. Literally, couldn’t be my knees have not recovered from my last marathon. So yeah, that could not be me. But really proud of you. But yeah, I think it’s one of those things where it’s like, women absolutely have the ability to like, do what Alanna is doing, 100%. But it’s like, yeah, it’s that realistic thing of, you got to figure out, hit em low, be faster, use their weight against them.

Bree: When I was in high school I took tempo at a dojo that was, the two sensei were two married people, and this man was like six foot three and his wife was like five one. And there weren’t always a lot of girls in the class, so I was often the only one. And the thing that she told me, like, this is what she taught me. She’s just like – her first move every time was to pop the knee and she’s like, Nobody is taller than you after you’ve broken their knee, Bree. And I was like, This is a life lesson!

Ali and Aradia laugh appreciatively

Ali: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. I was also always taught to, like, clap the ears, because once they’re disoriented, it’s all over. That disorients you, just like, pff, right on the ears, disorients you, and then you go down like. Like you would push em right over.

Aradia: Right? Because your balance is all screwed up.

Bree: Yeah. Watching this tiny little woman throw all these like – this was in Minnesota. Okay, everybody is Scandinavian. By 15, all the boys are like, six two. And she would be tossing them around this room just like I was, like, beautiful. (chef’s kiss) Absolute legend.

Ali: I love her.

Aradia: Love martial arts.

Ali: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s about using what you’ve got, right? Everyone has some kind of advantage over somebody else, right? It’s just figuring out how to work with what you have. Yeah.

Bree: Yeah. No one’s taller than you when you pop the knee.

Ali: Yeah, I love that.

Aradia: And that’s really the arc that Alanna goes on in this chapter, right? Because we start with her like, you know, getting bullied and then there’s the pond incident. He’s dragging her towards the pond to make her swim, because she obviously won’t swim because, you know, they’ll see that she’s not a boy. And she’s thinking in her head, I’m just a girl. He’s going to kill me. Like, she can’t imagine being strong enough to actually deal with him. By the end of the chapter she very publicly calls him out and beat him fucking senseless. And she never again has the thought. I’m just a girl –

Ali: Fuck yeah!

Aradia – therefore I can’t. Right. This is the chapter where she moves from, Oh, I’m just a girl to like, Oh, no. I just took down a boy twice my size because I’m smart enough, persistent enough to figure out how to break his kneecap and become taller than him. So to speak.

Ali: Fuck yeah girly, Bbreak his kneecap.

Aradia: And then Ralon leaves. It’s not like he just acknowledged his her after, he leaves. Like, this is a, like, complete death at court.

Bree: Yeah. She disgraces him to, yeah social death. She disgraces him.

Aradia: And she goes into that fight knowing she would leave if she lost.

Ali: Yeah. Yeah. I was very much likem Yes girly, disgrace him.

Bree: She basically drops the opening to Hamilton on him, Bastard son of a whore. And then she slaps him.

Aradia: It’s glorious.

Ali: She gets him.

Aradia: It’s very chivalrous. She follows the forms of a chivalric duel, but then breaks his nose.

Ali: I bite my thumb at you, Sir! No, you bite your thumb at me?

Aradia: Right? Yeah. Like, pops him over her hip because she’s lower to the ground. All that height is just going to make you fall harder.

Bree: Mmh hmm.

Ali: Yeah, and you’re slower because you’re big.

Aradia: Yeah, but it’s a really big moment for her to realize that she can do this even though she’s a girl in disguise. She can fucking do this.

Ali: It was honestly a big moment for all of us.

Aradia: Right, it is!

Ali: Do you ever see a woman do something and you just think, It means more. Because you’re a woman it just means more.

Aradia: But I also love how George is like, Here. Have a tankard of ale, you’re graduated. You’re ready. Like, Go, go get this fucker. He’s so supportive. I like that he’s like, Have your first alcohol in a controlled environment.

Ali: Listen, maybe we shouldn’t be drinking at ten.

Aradia: Technically 11, but yeah.

Ali: Technically, not good for your brain. But I appreciate the sentiment. And there is something special about – adults shouldn’t give children alcohol, but like, you know how you have a trusted parent or mentor, who gives you your first sip of beer?

Aradia: My dad was very deliberate about being my first exposure to alcohol. He did not want anyone else giving me my first drink. He was like, Uh ah.

Ali: Which I do think it’s smart to be setting up the conditions at which your child is exposed to alcohol in a friendly, safe environment –

Bree: Yeah.

Aradia: Exactly-

Ali: – that is not a college party or a high school party or whatever, because that’s always a bad idea.

Aradia: And that’s the vibe that George is giving here, is like, You’re ready to grow up just, just a skosh.

Bree: Teeny tiny bit.

Aradia: Just enough to beat someone into a pulp.

Bree: Yeah.

Ali: Yeah. I think it’s – plus it’s like medieval times. Ten year olds were drinking.

Aradia: Also that. Yeah. And yeah, that’s basically what I’ve got notes wise for these first three chapters. Is there anything else?

Bree: Oh, I do want to say something. I want to add, she threw up after she beat the shit out of him.

Aradia: Oh, yeah.

Bree: Which I did appreciate that it went into this too because like, you know, she really looks down on herself at first, because she thinks like, maybe she’s just still a stupid girl because she used tricks. She used his temper against him, like all the stuff. And like, Nah, girl, that’s what fights are.It’s not some, you know. That was called strategy. And I do like that Myles comes in, and then Jonathan, and is basically affirming her, telling her that it wasn’t like Ralon goes and beats up people and then feels bad about it. Like, that makes her a better person than he is. She’s not a bully, but she finished this fight and so like, good for you. And I think the chapter ends on her calling Jonathan by his name for the first time. So like, now we’re friends. Apologies to Jonathan.

Aradia: She sees herself as able to be his friend, equal enough to be his friend.

Ali: How dare you?

Bree: We’re going to keep fighting because, you know, I’m going to throw him in the trash as soon as George comes back again.

Aradia: Oh, first, Bree was defending Gorynel Desse. Now she’s slandering Jonathan Conté.

Bree: I know.

Ali: I just. Your taste!

Bree: Baby Bree had some strong opinions.

(hilarity ensues)

Bree: I will not apologize for George.

Aradia: I love it.

Bree: Gorynel Desse turned out to be a problem. I refuse to believe George will, too. I can’t. I’m going to just deny it. I’m not going to deny it, but I refuse to believe. George, you’re my baby.

Aradia: We’re going to RAFO.

Ali: Bree’s wanting that Sunday in the park with George. That’s what she wants.

Aradia: (sings) Sunday in the park with George! That line has lived rent free in my fucking head forever.

Bree: Oh. Oh, we didn’t actually name the Dancing Dove. The Dancing Dove. I love that name. I had forgotten it. I just want to shout it out.

Aradia: Oh, yeah.

Bree: It’s like, you know, I love it when a thief has his own little club. I wrote an entire frickin apocalyptic series about, basically a thief who has his own club. It was much dirtier, but, like, you know, it’s a thing. I love it.

Aradia: Awesome.

Ali: I feel like that – I like that they’re dealing with this balance of, okay, death and healing, like, violence, but feel bad about it. Like, you don’t want to start fights, but you do want to end them. You know what I mean? It feels like Tamora Pierce is very conscious about the message that she’s sending about violence.

Aradia: Yeah. Yes.

Ali: And I think that to me is really important, is that we’re not just like, Violence, fuck yeah! But that it’s like, Yeah, it’s a thing that exists. Sometimes you do have to defend yourself. But the first thing that they teach you when you take a tae kwon do class or a karate class or whatever, is you don’t go out there just throwing punches.

Aradia: No, no, no.

Ali: This is a method of defense, that’s what it’s used for. You are not the antagonist, you are the defender. And so ideally you never have to use this out in the world. Ideally you just walk around having this as a tool in your tool belt, but you never actually have to use it. Like, my friend who’s a black belt, has only ever had to use out in the world one time.

Bree: Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ali: But I do think it’s important to know how to defend yourself. And I think it’s cool that she’s really being thoughtful about, like, even though I’m telling girls, you can take boys down if you need to. I’m not going like, And you should. And don’t feel anything about it when you do. Right?

Bree: She’s not celebrating the violence of toxic masculinity. She’s saying, you know, you can be violent, but for good cause. But she’s not saying, Ooh, it’s glorious and fun.

Aradia: And to come back to a theme from our last book of like, what is a trope reversal, what is a role reversal? This is not just saying, Yeah, men are violent and they like being violent and all men are violent and all men experience violence the same way and it’s all fine. And that’s just how they are, boys are boys – But no, we’re not getting that. We’re getting something much more nuanced and complex. And some people like it, some people don’t. Some people are just going to be academics and leave the fighting to others, and that’s fine.

Ali: Which is a mood for me.

Aradia: It’s rare to be in a book that’s so many men, and it’s just men being men, and yet you’re getting all these different dynamic human characteristics rather than just cardboard cutouts. Which is what a lazy role reversal would be. And this is not that. This is well done.

Ali: Yeah, it’s really thoughtful. And I appreciate that because it feels like sometimes our glorification of violence can be so problematic. And I always appreciate when a story takes the time to be like, This isn’t the goal. You know, this isn’t something we should normalize. It is good to, if you need to use violence, to defend yourself, it is good to feel complicated feelings about that. It’s actually reassuring that you struggle with violence. The way it’s like in the Wheel of Time, where Elyas says, When you start to like using that ax, throw it away.

Aradia: Right, right. Yeah. We’ve got Alanna being like, I want to be this dashing chivalrous, heroic person. And also, I’m scared of myself when I get violent. Both of those desires and fears are existing together in her imagination for what she wants to be.

Ali: Yeah. I feel like we don’t talk enough about the fact that, you know, being afraid and doing it anyway, is being tough. Right?

Aradia: Right.

Ali: Utilizing violence only when necessary and feeling bad when you have to, is being like a good man, a good person, right? Having the power to do something awful and not doing it.

Aradia: Mhm.

Ali: Having that capacity to do bad things – I mean, a lot of people, most people do have the capacity to be awful to each other, right? And being like, I’m not going to do that. I’m actually going to rise above it and show kindness. I mean, that is strength, right? Not going down with other people.

Bree: Not just that, but stop other people from doing it. You’ve got the keys to that tool, to that level of power, and instead of turning it on people, you’re going to turn it on the people who would abuse it. Because you can meet them on their level and stop them from hurting people. And that’s what I want to see, generally speaking, from this sort of like – that’s what I think Alanna is going to have to learn, because Jonathan says it to her. A bully – It’s right here: “A bully fights people littler and weaker than he is because he thinks it’s fun.” Like, that’s not what she did. But that’s, you know, what a lot of people, too, unfortunately. And think this is a good chapter.

Aradia: It’s the danger of training people to be violent, academically, for eight years. They might choose to do that.

Bree: Yeah.

Ali: That’s what a lot of people I think, confuse with strength, is being cruel or being mean. I also think we conflate cruelty and cynicism with intelligence as well, for some reason?

Bree: Oh, so much. Yeah.

Ali: Whereas I’m like, I feel like some of the most interesting, profound people who have dealt with the most stuff, the most trauma and difficulty, tend to be people who are very happy, or at least look for things to find joy in.

Aradia: And are kind and soft, and generous and – yeah, not cruel.

Ali: But to me, yeah, to me what’s impressive is people who continuously show their belly to the world and are vulnerable and are kind and they don’t let the world grind them into being cynical, unkind, lash out at people who are being vulnerable, or who are vulnerable in some way. But defenders of the vulnerable and kind to people. It’s like, to me I’m like, we’ve put value on the wrong thing. Like what, in my mind, ideally, masculinity – if we want to call it that – but privilege in general is that, if you have this kind of privilege, what you do with it matters. It’s not like the judgment is that someone has privilege, because everyone has privilege over somebody, but it’s that you are utilizing that privilege for the better good. So I feel like that’s yeah, hopefully – I can’t remember, but hopefully something that Alanna starts to kind of reckon with is like, obviously she has this masculine side to herself, as many women do.

Aradia: It’s like part of all of humanity.

Ali: Just like a lot of, most men has some kind of feminine side to themselves. And it’s like, how do we express that? How do we value that? And not buy into this toxic masculinity idea of like, punch everyone, right? Hide your feelings, punch everyone and don’t feel bad about it.

Aradia: Yeah, well, we’ve got Myles to remind us of her heart, and hopefully the rest of them will shake out along a spectrum of humanity.

Ali: It seems like it, right? It seems like it.

Aradia: It seems like we’re off to a good start.

Ali: I feel like Tamora Pierce is doing it.

1:25:40 Wrap up. Next week: Alanna chapters 4-5

Bree: I’m excited to find out more. I had to stop. This was my first time I had to stop reading and I was very upset, to be perfectly honest. I don’t know how all y’all have been doing this. And like Ali, you’ve been doing this for years now? Not fun!

Ali: For years, baby! I’m very excited to one day know everything. But at this point, I’ve gotten very used to having my reading interrupted.

Bree: Well, I’m going to have to get used to it, but I get to read more for next week.

Aradia: Well, I really appreciate you both having the self-control for that. It’s appreciated.

Ali: Welcome to the lived empathy. Bree.

Bree: I am ready for it. I’m a little uncomfortable, but I’ll settle in. I understand you better now

Ali: There you go.

Aradia: Everyone, next week we’re going to be reading chapters 4 and 5. Just two chapters, that’s what we’re going to get through. And yeah, thanks for joining us for our first episode of Alanna!

Ali: We thank you so much for listening. If you want to keep gabbing with us, our social media and contact details are in the episode description. Until next time, have a very nuanced day!