Pictured above: The first thing that came up when I Googled “sick queen.” Imagine that Lianne is that dragon-goat thing in the bed. Alanna can be the narwhal.
Alanna grabs onto the emberstone, and sure enough, the Queen is glowing orange. And—this is big, so make sure you’re sitting down and not drinking anything—she decides to actually do something about it.
She waits until the feast is in full swing (TPierce’s verbatim narration there) and then sneaks out to Roger’s chambers, using a cunning combination of magic and lockpicks to break in. Sure enough, in his workroom she finds a wax replica of the Queen chillin’ in a fountain, the water gradually wearing her away. The Duke apparently taught the pages ages ago that you can use dolls like that in works of sympathetic magic, include magically-induced illnesses (hence why the Queen never got better from the Sweating Sickness—she was in the fountain the whole time). Alanna also finds a bag of replicas of herself, Jonathan, the King, Duke Gareth, Myles, and the Lord Provost, all wrapped in a veil. The veil is apparently a magical thing that kept everyone inside it from seeing what Roger really is, which… okay, I guess that partially explains Alanna’s annoying “I have no proof” thing when the proof is literally about to gore her to death in the woods. In an unheard-of act of actual sense-making, Alanna remembers to take the dolls with her before she gallops back to the Great Hall to yell treason. Girl is making logical decisions, what even am I reading.
The first thing she does when she gets in front of the King is tell him that she broke into a man’s chambers. The second thing she does is show him the dolls. Roger, naturally, is very rageful and blustery and accuses Alanna of making the dolls herself, to which she replies, “Pssh, naw.” He then challenges her to single combat, and all the readers rejoice because they are totally fucking sick of this conflict at this point.
Before she goes down to do her Inigo Montoya routine, Alanna has a tete-a-tete with Jonathan, Myles, Coram, and Thom. (George shows up after a few minutes, too, because of course he does, the creep.) Myles for some reason asks why she suspected Roger. Seriously, dude? She was discussing how much she hated him with you like two chapters ago. Jonathan is equally nonplussed. Come ON, guys, she talked to both of you! A lot! Alanna decides that this is the perfect moment to tell Myles that she’s not a dude, because she may be dead in less than an hour. Myles is like “shyeah, duh, please don’t get stabbed in the throat.” Myles for President forever. Everyone leaves but Alanna and Jon, and they have a romantic moment that—shockingly—does not make me want to punch anyone in the face.
Alanna looked at Jon and went into his arms, hugging him tightly.
“I’m sorry, she whispered, fighting back tears. “I know you love him; but I couldn’t let it go on. He was killing your mother.”
Jonathan held her close. “I love you more.” His voice was breaking. “Don’t let him kill you.”
Alanna shook her head. “I don’t plan to. Believe me, I don’t.”
No one is being an asshole here, it’s great. Although I feel the need to point out once again that that semi-colon does not go there.
They go down to the Great Throne Room, where Roger is basically baying for blood and everyone else looks kind of awkward and uncomfortable. (Except the Queen, who is as previously established a bedridden dragon-goat.) As Alanna gets ready for combat, she realizes that even if she loses, she’s won, because people are throwing Roger some serious shade, and even if he kills her—thus proving himself innocent, according to the bizarre Tortallan legal system—they will never see the Duke in the same way again
Right, so there’s swordfighting, which is generally as dull to read about as it is exciting to see in a movie. There’s a lot of parrying and lunging and stepping back and the basic gist of everything is Roger thinks Alanna is going to be really rash and overconfident and starts getting pissy when she isn’t. Then he uses an illusion to make her think he suddenly has two swords, which is a foul (as evidenced by Thom screaming “foul!” like he’s at a goddamn soccer match). Alanna remembers she has a magic-seeing necklace—that’s twice in one chapter she’s remembered that! Fancy!—and she figures out which sword is real after a second, but not before Roger has overpowered her and started forcing her to the floor. She rolls away and keeps a hand on the emberstone, the better to make sure she knows which hand he’s actually using, and goes in for the kill while he’s switching hands. Alanna gets first blood, but the Duke strikes back, and ends up slicing through Alanna’s tunic, shirt, and the special corset she uses to bind her chest.
Pictured above: the Tortallan Court.
The King halts the stick-waving because WHAT THE HELL BOOBS. Thom starts to explain while Alanna fixes her shirt so the duel doesn’t become Girls Gone Wild: Corus Beach. When she’s done the King asks her what she has to say for herself. Alanna replies that she never wanted to lie to him, but she wanted to win her shield even more, and she does not regret what she did. It’s a really great moment which is, of course, ruined by Roger freaking the fuck out.
He calls her a demon and starts trying to stab her. She parries, cutting off a lock of his hair in the process. He retaliates by immersing himself in a giant orange cloud.
Pictured above: Death. I’m not saying it’s not effective, I’m just saying it lacks poetry.
Alanna, never one to let a gigantic orange doom-cloud stop her, uses Lightning to slice open the cloud and stab him twice. And that’s how Roger of Conte dies. The end.
… aaand just when you think the book is over we have an EPILOGUE! Alanna and Coram are getting ready to ride into the southern desert to do some heroing. Everyone is clustered around to say goodbye like they’re at the goddamn airport. Gary tells her that she doesn’t need to leave just because she killed a measly ol’ Duke, and Alanna says that she needs to find herself and that she’ll come back once she’s done so. Raoul says that she sould stay because he feels like he doesn’t know “Sir Alanna” at all, to which she replies that “Sir Alanna” is just Alan with the truth being told, which is sort of lovely and perfect. George tells her to remember the theives’s signs he taught her, presumably with a subtext of “if you don’t I’ll totally drug you.” They all then leave Alanna alone to say goodbye to Jonathan, because apparently they are the worst kept secret in the whole gd realm. They kiss, she promises (again) to come back, and then Jonathan watches them ride away. Alanna thinks about the road to knighthood, the duel with Roger, and the possibility of future happiness for herself. It is a very solemn, weighty moment. And then she ruins it by being a dork.
She let out a whoop of sheer exuberance and kicked Moonlight into a gallop. “C’mon, Coram!” she cried, galloping past him. “Let’s go find an adventure!”
Pictured above: Adventurers.
So how does the whole knighthood thing go for Alanna? Will George do the creep at her even while she’s in the desert? How awkward is it going to be to reread this next one as an adult with some basic understanding of race relations, honestly? Find out next time when we start THE WOMAN WHO RIDES LIKE A MAN!