Tortall Universe (Pierce)

Next up: The Tortall series by Tamora Pierce

Not quite a continuous series but a collection of shorter series all set in the same world.  There are a decent number of books, but I do think it is ‘required’ to read all of them, if you want to fully enjoy the universe as a whole.  A lot of the books build off of each other, and there are some generational things that go on between series.  I have a guide to the universe on my ‘recommendations’ page.


Tortall is the name of one kingdom in this pseudo-medieval world.  As is typical with fantasy books, there are knights and kings and magic.  Most of the books are set in Tortall, though a few branch out to other kingdoms… or planes of existence.  The magic seems not to have any set rules or particular limitations, apparently able to anything you can imagine.  But it is limited by the strength or skill of the mage trying to wield it.

All of the books feature a strong main female lead, and generally deal with empowerment and self-strength.  Some are about breaking gender stereotypes, about growing into power and confidence, or finding strength and maturity in adversity.  Each lead has a very distinct voice, from brash tomboy to shy farmgirl.

They are largely adventure books, though there is some level of romance in each.  The romance stories are as varied as the characters themselves and are enjoyable but don’t overwhelm the plot.  The Provost’s Dog trilogy also has a component of crime/mystery to them.

My thoughts

This series is near and dear to my heart, being one I really got into in my youth.  Many a daydream was born of these books.  I will admit that the early ones are a little rough, writing-wise, but they improve with each successive installment.  They get particularly enjoyable with the Protector of the Small quartet.

I liked Pierce’s characters, how strong the women were and how different they were from each other.  I think these books are good for younger teens to read, as they address a lot of aspects of growing up as a woman in a patriarchal society (hey, can you tell I’m a feminist?), and as growing up as a woman in general.  And don’t just give these to your daughters/nieces/whatever, get them for the boys, too.  No reason why they shouldn’t enjoy the adventures just because they’re about a girl (seriously, though, if girls can enjoy books about boys then the reverse is also true).

The magic system is not my favorite, being not really much of a system.  But it is pretty ‘magical’; seemingly anything is possible.  It does manage not to become a ‘mages are overpowered’ kind of world, though, and pretty organically I think.  Magic has constraints that don’t feel contrived.  So even though characters might be able to wave their hand and make their problems go away, they can’t actually, for good reason.

The two things about the series that I’m not particularly fond of are 1) the use of mythical animals like dragons and such.  It’s not that I don’t like the inclusion of them, but in the Immortals series they sometimes felt… juvenile.  The dragons are really what I’m thinking of.  I’d’ve liked for them to be handled with a little more finesse.  2) the relative lack of representation.  While Daine is arguably mixed-race, all the other characters are white.  White, cis-het women.  It’s nice that not all the main characters end up happily married with their ‘prince charming’ by the end of their series, but it would be nice to get variance in what their potential romances look like, and what they look like.  Later books start getting in on representation, but nothing like a main character.  Other than those two things, I quite like these books, and I’ll happily read new installments.


6/7 stars


Bullying, sexism, some mentions of abuse and rape (non-graphic), sword-fighting violence.


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