Every Tamora Pierce Collection

upwards shot of vintage books on a bookshelf

A phenomenal fantasy author, Tamora Pierce writes series about empowered girls taking charge of their fates in worlds full of magic and mystery—and she’s done it for nearly four decades. Although her books are written for young adults, anyone can enjoy the timeless plots and stories she seems to effortlessly weave.

Here is every Tamora Pierce collection, in chronological order of release and rated on a scale from 1 to 5. While a few are lackluster, most approach utter and magical literary perfection.

Song of the Lioness (1983-1988)

Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness book collection cover art

 

Rank: 3/5
Protagonist: Alanna of Trebond
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 4

Alanna is a young girl who wants to become a knight in a kingdom that doesn’t allow female knights. She disguises herself as a boy and enrolls in the knight school, in order to train while hiding her true self.

There are undoubtedly a few low points in this third book, likely a product of Pierce’s time. For example, Prince Jon becomes a leader of a native tribe called the Bazhir, and helps them accept how Jon’s kingdom has conquered them.

This kind of colonialist narrative doesn’t hold up well nowadays, but the series is still definitely worth reading.

The Immortals (1992-1996)

Tamora Pierce's The Immortals book collection cover art

Rank: 4/5
Protagonist: Daine Sarrasri
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 4

Set about 15 years after Song of the Lioness, this quartet focuses on Daine, a magic-user with the ability to shapeshift and speak to animals. Creatures known as Immortals are somehow breaking into her realm, and she must team up with friends to stop the incursion.

Protector of the Small (1999-2002)

Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small Book Collection cover art

Rank: 4/5
Protagonist: Keladry of Mindelan
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 4

Since Alanna earned her knighthood, Tortall has changed its laws to allow women to become knights. However, Kel is the first girl to take up the challenge, nearly 20 years after the new law was passed. Despite the law, most people believe she is incapable.

Despite following a similar path to Alanna’s, Kel’s story is substantially different, and Pierce never makes the mistake of taking the reader down roads she’s already traveled.

Though both girls train to be knights, they face vastly different challenges. As it turns out, being able to express your true identity doesn’t actually make life much easier. Instead, Kel must face endless sexism, and a knighthood system that is still not equipped for girls.

Tricksters (2003-2004)

Tamora Pierce's Tricksters Book Collection cover art

Rank: 4/5
Protagonist: Aly of Pirate’s Swoop
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 2

The protagonist of this set is Aly, the daughter of Alanna and her husband George of Pirate’s Swoop.

Despite her mother’s wild adventures, Aly is forbidden to become a spy for her country like her father. Instead, she runs away to the far-off Copper Isles and works to overthrow the white colonists who have controlled the islands for years.

This series focuses much more on political intrigue and court politics, given the nature of Aly’s position as a spy. It’s a fun exploration and makes for good story-telling.

Circle of Magic’s Appeals (2006-2011)

Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic Appeals Book Collection cover art

Rank: 4/5
Protagonist: Beka Cooper
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 3

This series takes place 200 years before Song of the Lioness, and focuses on Beka Cooper, the ancestress of George Cooper and eventual husband of Alanna.

It gives readers some interesting insights into Tortall’s history, and also focuses on a protagonist who begins as a late teen, something not common in Pierce’s books. Beka trains to be a Provost’s Dog, the equivalent to a police officer.

The Numair Chronicles (2018- Present)

Tamora Pierce's The Numair Chronicles Collection book cover art

Rank: 4/5
Protagonist: Arram Draper
Setting: Tortall
Number of books: 3 (projected)

It’s difficult to judge this series, since only one book has been released—but it delivers a promising start.

In one of Pierce’s few stories with a male protagonist, this prequel series follows Numair, who eventually tutors and marries Daine. Back in his youth, he was known as Arram and attended a prestigious school in Tortall’s neighboring (and sometimes enemy) country, Carthak.

Circle of Magic (1997-1999)

Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic Book Collection cover art

Rank: 4/5
Setting: Emelan
Number of books: 4

Unlike Pierce’s Tortall stories, the books set in Emelan don’t focus on a single protagonist for the entire series. Instead, four protagonists are intertwined, and each book takes the perspective of a different member of their circle.

The four children live in a world where magic is ordinary, but their types of magic are extremely rare. They train together at a special school.

Each character is well fleshed-out, and the world of Emelan is quite distinct from Tortall in many key ways. The commonality of magic is a fun one to explore, and Pierce does it well here.

The Circle Opens (2000-2003)

Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens Book Collection cover art

Rank: 2/5
Setting: Emelan
Number of books: 4

After four years of training, the foursome is split up from their school of magic and allowed to take on students, despite their relatively young age. Each book follows their individual adventures as they explore the wider world, and try to impart essential lessons to their students about magic and life.

Although this has an interesting premise, the students are not nearly as well-rounded as the first four protagonists. Additionally, part of the appeal of Circle of Magic was the bond between the four—so splitting them up in the second collection robs the narrative of something crucial.

The Circle Reforged (2005- Present)

Tamora Pierce's The Circle Reforged Book Collection Cover Art

Rank: 2/5
Setting: Emelan
Number of books: 4 (projected)

Unlike Pierce’s previous Circle books, the four protagonists have lost their bond to each other because they spent so many years apart.

Considering how heavily Pierce normally emphasizes the power of friendship, it seems weird that they would have drifted so much. In the first installment, they rediscover their friendship, but it’s a strange place to start the series.

via GIPHY

A few stumbles and pitfalls aside, the collections of Tamora Pierce still bring her beloved trademarks to the table in some form or another: fun magical elements, empowerment, a sense of identity, and enduring friendships.

Perhaps the most unique and celebrated component of Pierce’s work, however, is her strong female leads—uncommon in her time, and still a refreshingly rare find in YA fantasy today.

For more reading recommendations, check out the best science fiction books, the best of Neil Gaiman, or the best of Ray Bradbury.