JK Rowling and Tamora Pierce

I was stuck by this piece by Bidisha, which appeared in the Guardian the other week. At the height of the usual mania over the new Harry Potter film, she wrote a very moving piece about those who had grown up with the series.

It was only when she came to assess Hermione as a feminist character that I got a bit annoyed. Now, to my mind Hermione may be many things, but as interesting a character as I find her she wouldn’t be my first choice when it came to examples of inspiring female characters in fantasy fiction. I thought about this, and I’ve realised that this is almost definitely because I grew up reading Tamora Pierce, not JK Rowling. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I read the first 2 Song of the Lioness books, and seem to remember having to wait what felt like an absolute age (about 2 years) to read the third book in the series – The Woman Who Rides Like A Man – and about another year or more for the fourth and final book, Lioness Rampant. I was thinking about Pierce again because I’ve been re-reading the Trickster duology again, which were the last two books of hers to be published in the U.K. They were published by Scholastic, who also happen to publish Philip Pullman, and (I think) another well established British fantasy writer, whose name I can’t recall… I always thought it odd that the Pierce books have always done so well in America (prizes, bestsellers, school visits…) whilst generating a loyal following but little press interest over here. I do remember a brief paragraph in Bookseller once, years ago now, when the first 3 Harry Potter books were all out and the phenomenon was really taking off, which pointed out that Pierce’s heroines made Hermione look incredibly tame in comparison, but I don’t recall any other British press discussion of Pierce at all.

When it was announced that Scholastic would no longer publish Tamora Pierce after the Trickster duology, I did wonder if it was because they had other, bigger selling, more established, homegrown fantasy writers on their list. I also wondered if it was because of the nature of the Trickster duology, which is as dark in its way as the final Harry Potter book is. I expect I will never know.

So far as I have been able to find out, Pierce still doesn’t have a British publisher, 3 years later, whilst continuing to write American bestsellers for teens overseas. How very odd…

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