Almost ten years ago, a fantastic novelist by the name of Tamora Pierce saw her books dropped from UK shelves when Scholastic UK ceased to be her publisher. Under the wing of Random House in the USA, she published her first book, Alanna: The First Adventure, the start of a series set in the mediaeval fantasy world of Tortall, which has grown to include the tales of multiple young female heroes. She was then picked up by Scholastic UK and Australia, and has been published in several other languages, becoming a firm favourite of many fantasy readers for her diverse characters and situations as well as the underlying feminist and equalist messages in her books.
Despite her growing success and her books receiving many recommendations both in libraries and on the Internet, Scholastic UK ceased publication of her novels in 2004. This put a halt to her books being sold both in our bookstores; her e-books and audiobooks also ceased being sold on Amazon or Audible UK. It’s still possible to order physical copies of her books on Amazon through marketplace sellers, but they include different editions with different cover designs and have no guarantee of physical quality. They are not available for purchase in high street bookshops such as Waterstones or Easons.
Since Scholastic were her former publisher, and her website claims she has no UK publisher right now, you may understand why I had my interests piqued when I found a page about her on Random House UK’s website: a page that has images saying “coming soon” where a photo of Pierce should be, and more importantly, on a link where books are usually listed. Of course, I clicked that link and was brought to a page about Song of the Lioness: Alanna the First Adventure – the first book she published in 1983. I clicked “buy” and was given links to Amazon and Waterstones, among other websites, so I clicked to see what came up and I found something that makes me incredibly happy as well as surprised.
On Amazon, Alanna the First Adventure is listed as having a release date of 2 January 2014, published by Random House UK, and is available for pre-order. As of time of publication, there are no cover images released yet, nor any press statements from Random House UK about the re-release. In fact, I’ve been unable to find any information about it other than the inconspicuous author page on their website and the listings on Amazon and Waterstones. I am willing to bet that if they are going to the effort of reprinting her books in the UK, they are going to do it properly and get them some well-deserved attention.
With the re-release and the new press that will follow, are we about to see a thirty-year old book become the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones? I hope so; the books are fabulous and a movie or TV series of them could appeal to so many audiences. Being re-released as an action-packed, female-focused series, following hot on the tail of The Hunger Games… well, you heard it here first. In other countries and online, they are gaining a more outspoken following, with fangroups such as “Take Me To Tortall, Leave Me In Emelan” organising fan projects like international attendance of upcoming conventions. Popular book reviewer Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads has been covering the Tortall series on his website.
On a final, more personal note, I highly recommend you pre-order the book if you like fantasy and action with a female protagonist at all, as it is a great series and, despite being aimed at young adults, it has a whole other side to it. Not only do these novels show an enchanting world of knights and magic, but they encourage young women to fight to achieve their goals in a world where odds are not in their favour. In doing so, Pierce delivers practical messages for both male and female readers.