The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is generally considered the low point of the Song of the Lioness series, but I have to say I disagree. I don’t know if it’s because, compared to the first two books in the series, it covers a relatively short period of time and mostly takes place in one location, or because of a contrived ‘saviour’ complex everyone is so triggered by.
First, Alanna spends most of the book in the desert with the Bloody Hawk, a Bazhir tribe, learning about herself by helping others. After all the drama that happened in Corus after earning her shield, Alanna is on the road with Coram trying to distance herself from the gossip and the guilt. She is uneasy around magic after seeing how Roger was using his Gift to manipulate and hurt the people around him, the people she loves and has sworn to protect. Being almost forced to stay in one place and to come to term with her feelings and her own Gift is not only the best thing that could have happened to her, but I found it incredibly interesting. It addressed the problems I had with In the Hand of the Goddess, which seemed rushed and refused to settle into the aftermath of the big events. So where others may have wanted more excitement in Alanna’s first year as a knight, I was happy to spend all that time in one place over a shorter period of time.
Second, I understand that many people have a problem with Alanna coming into a Bazhir tribe and having problems with their customs and trying to change them. I have to disagree, though. I think Pierce’s writing here isn’t disrespectful, it’s honest. Alanna has lived an incredibly sheltered life as a noblewoman and training to become a knight. She’s had adventures, but besides George, she has very little experience with people outside of other nobles and knights. She’s spent the last four years hiding her sex and seeing from the male perspective how women are viewed and treated. Of course, when she enters a tribe where women are hiding their faces and seem to be treated as a lower class to the men, she’s going to be triggered. However, when she’s settled into the tribe, she learns more about the men and women around her and the true dynamics of the tribe.