Warning: This page may contain spoilers for books set in the Tortall Universe.
Why did you make Alanna pick George and not Jonathan?
In the original manuscript (the quartet started out as a single adult novel), Alanna did marry Jon. The problem was that the whole final third of the book then felt awkward and so not-right. When I broke it up into four books for kids, I realized the problem. Alanna did not want to marry Jon. If I wasn’t going to let her have her way, she was going to make the writing a misery. You may have noticed that with Alanna, you do things her way or not at all.
She did not want to be Queen; she did not want to have to be nice to people she didn’t like. She also understood that sooner or later she would embarrass Jon, or that he would want her to start acting like a proper queen and stop doing the things she loved.
George has always valued her for who she is. He doesn’t want to change her; she doesn’t want to change him. He takes pride in who and what she is, just as she takes pride in what he does. It’s hard to describe a relationship like theirs to people, because most of us were raised to think love is fire, passion, and prolonged bouts of giddiness and strained emotions. The quieter kind of love looks kinda boring on the surface, even cool-hearted. Nobody wants that at first. Some people never learn how wonderful it is to be friends with a lover or spouse, to know that here is someone you can be yourself around, and they will love you anyway, sometimes not in spite of your worse characteristics, but because of them. That kind of lover will stay with you through thick and thin, will make you feel valued always, and will make any disastrous occasion seem less so because you are with that person.
That’s the best explaining I can do. I don’t know if readers will ever agree with me, but at least now you know why things turned out as they did. Alanna wanted her friend; she wanted the man who made her laugh and took delight in the very unfeminine things she did. Her king she can love and respect—most of the time, anyway. But she goes home to the guy with the sweet smile.
Didn’t Princess Kalasin want to be the first girl page? What happened to her?
Nobody likes this, but I’m going to tell you anyway: Yes, Kally did want to be a page; no, she isn’t one. Jonathan talked her out of it.
He explains that while he married for love, he sees where his parents were wrong in not arranging a marriage for him: one of the reasons it seems all of Tortall’s neighbors were against her in recent years is because he never married to form an alliance with one of them. He’s trying to make up for that now by securing alliances with the marriages of his children (and they have been raised with this plan in mind, so none of them can say he sprung it on them). She knows that as a princess, her first duty is to the realm (another idea she’s been raised with), and the fact is, Jonathan has a very great marriage in mind for her with someone whose people will object strongly to a knighted queen. In exchange for a look at her proposed husbands before she has to commit to a marriage and the chance to say no, she gives up her plan to be a knight.
There is always a storm of protests when I explain this, but this is how everyone married up until very recently. Love was one thing (and even that is sort of new-fangled); marriage is something done for the advantage of the family, not the people who marry. This is true even in poor families, where a weaver might marry his son to a girl who is a good weaver herself, or a merchant family will marry one of their daughters to another merchant family which cuts them in on, say, a spice monopoly. Farmers might marry their children in exchange for land or livestock, nobles for land or money, royalty for alliances with other royalty. In some parts of the world, this is still the case: kids marry the person their parents have arranged for them to marry, because that’s what they were brought up to expect. Most of the time they aren’t even given much of a say; Jonathan’s granting Kally unusual freedom in allowing her a look at her prospective husband, and Kally knows she’s not to turn the match down for reasons any noble would regard as silly (he’s older, he’s younger, he doesn’t appeal to her physically).
Not that Jon gets away with it clean, mind. Thayet, who was away when he did this, was most displeased, and things were a bit tense in the royal household for a year.