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7 Must-Read Tamora Pierce Series of Knights, Spies, and Mages

Pierce's multi-decade writing career has given readers tons of memorable books and characters, many of whom are determined young women in worlds hostile to their dreams.

This collage of Tamora Pierce books includes the four entries of the Song of the Lioness Quartet

Forty years ago, Atheneum Books published Alanna: The First Adventure, the book that launched Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. Since then, Pierce has forged a long-lasting career writing young adult fantasy novels about determined female protagonists. While most of her books are set in the fictional kingdom of Tortall, she sometimes forays into other corners of that fantasy universe with occasional divergences entirely.

Given the shared setting of most of her works, delving into her bibliography can be an intimidating endeavor. Have no fear, though, most of her works don’t need to be read in order, including installments of the same series! 

But if you’re looking for a concise introduction to Tamora Pierce books, here you go.

Tamora Pierce Books Set in the World of Tortall

The Song of the Lioness Quartet

Lioness Rampant

Lioness Rampant

By Tamora Pierce

Probably the most famous of Tamora Pierce’s novels, the Song of the Lioness Quartet follows a young noblewoman named Alanna of Trebond who disguises herself as a boy in order to become a knight. Since there hasn’t been a female knight in the kingdom of Tortall for centuries, it’s the only option open to her and even then, only possible because she has a twin brother—she studies to become a knight while he takes her place and studies magic. 

The series chronicles her journey, from the growing difficulty of hiding her gender identity as she matures and goes through puberty to tackling the physical limitations of being smaller than other knights-in-training. 

Spoiler alert: As the fourth and final book in the series, Lioness Rampant concludes Alanna’s tale in which she fulfills her dream of becoming a knight and embarks on a mission to find a legendary jewel that grants unimaginable power to any ruler that wields it, only to face an enemy she thought dead.

Protector of the Small

First Test: Book 1 of the Protector of the Small Quartet

First Test: Book 1 of the Protector of the Small Quartet

By Tamora Pierce

A decade ago, King Jonathan of Tortall declared that women can train to become knights. You get only one guess as to why he’d make such a radical announcement. Unfortunately, in the ten long years since Alanna became King’s Champion, no other women have followed in her footsteps. That changes when Kel, the daughter of a noble diplomat, decides to take up the challenge. And a challenge it is. Her new training master doesn’t believe girls can become knights. The other knights-in-training are threatened by this subversion of traditional norms. And, most notably, Kel takes great exception to the accepted practice of hazing first-year pages. Pierce continues to explore feminist themes here, but she also tackles themes of bullying as well.

Daughter of the Lioness

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

Trickster's Choice

By Tamora Pierce

Set two decades after the original Song of the Lioness Quartet, Alanna of Trebond has become a legend. That’s great, but it’s tough being the daughter of a living legend, as Aly discovers. Maybe even more so because she doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Instead, she takes after her father and wishes to become a spy. Her parents aren’t thrilled about this, though, and in frustration, Aly literally sails off. 

Too bad her journey is cut short when she’s captured by pirates and sold as a slave. Luckily a god smiles down upon her, and Aly finds a relative soft landing as a work-slave for an exiled but kind noble family in the distant Copper Isles. There, she strikes a bargain with said god: if she can keep the noble family safe for the summer, the god must help her back home and convince her parents to let her become a spy. But her task is easier said than done. There are political and revolutionary machinations afoot in the Copper Isles, and the children of the noble family are at the center of it.

The Legend of Beka Cooper



By Tamora Pierce

Set two centuries the Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Legend of Beka Cooper trilogy introduces us to an ancestor of George Cooper, the man who’d eventually becomes Alanna’s husband and Aly’s father. But Beka isn’t a spy or a thief like her descendant. 

In fact, she’s the opposite: She’s training to become a Dog of the Lord Provost—in other words, a member of the police force. Beka, however, isn’t your average girl. She can hear the voices of the dead and echoes of conversations from air spirits. Thanks to these talents, she discovers two threats to the city: a ruthless killer who kidnaps children and a mysterious organization that hires people to dig up opals and then kills them when the job is done.

Numair Chronicles

Tamora Pierce female warriors

Tempests and Slaughter

By Tamora Pierce

While Pierce is well-known for her scrappy female protagonists, she switches things up in Tempest and Slaughter, which tells the origin story of the powerful mage Numair. But here, he isn’t Numair yet. He’s Arram, a precocious boy with unlimited potential and the youngest student in his university class. There, he befriends a kitchenwitch and a privileged prince. 

As the most recent installment in the Tortall universe, this may not be the best place to start, but it’s certainly worth picking up if you’re a fan of Numair, who’s a staple character in the chronology.

The Immortals



By Tamora Pierce

An orphan with the astonishing ability to heal and control animals, as well as shapeshift into their forms, Daine seeks out a new life in the kingdom of Tortall. But when she takes a job handling horses for the Queen’s Riders, she meets Numair, a master mage, and learns that her powers are actually magical abilities. 

Spoiler alert: In the second installment of The Immortals Quartet, Daine and her now-teacher Numair help a pack of wolves but in doing so, uncover a plot to overthrow the king.

Non-Tortall Series

Circle of Magic

Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic #1)

Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic #1)

By Tamora Pierce

Departing from the familiar world of Tortall, Tamora Pierce introduces us to Emelan in her Circle of Magic novels. This series tells the story of four children from different social classes that have become outcasts: Sandry, who comes from nobility; Tris, who comes from a merchant family; Daja, who comes from a Trader family; and Briar, a former member of a street gang. 

The children have two things in common—for various reasons, they have no family, and they can wield magic. Together, they must learn to wield their powers and work together.