Tortall Universe FAQ (Contains Spoilers)

Warning: This page may contain spoilers for books set in the Tortall Universe.

General Questions

Character Questions: Alanna

Character Questions: Kel (and friends)


General Questions

I think I’ve found some inconsistencies in the books…

It’s true, your eyes did not deceive you. In one of the Protector of the Small books, King Jonathan is listed as “King Jonathan III.” In the next, he’s “Jonathan IV.” Also, in early Protector books, Mindelan is shown inside the Scanran border—it looks as if Mindelan is the Scanran capital. In both of these instances, I was in something of a hurry to get these materials back to Random House before the books were printed, and missed a couple of major items. They are being fixed: Jon is Jonathan IV, and the map will be redone so that Mindelan is a normal fief, well inside the Tortallan border.


Do you have any plans to write about Beka Cooper again?

I don’t know if I’ll be writing in Beka’s period again or not. So I’m afraid no, at this time!


What happened to Princess Kalasin? Didn’t she want to be a page?

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.


Are the Raka based on any real life culture?

The Raka are sort of a combination of different Indonesian cultures. The names, the food, the architecture, the clothing. Since Indonesia is made up of over fifty different cultures, I had a pretty wide spread to draw from.


Character Questions: Alanna

Will we ever get to see the ‘adult’ (first draft) version of Alanna?

The adult version very literally no longer exists. I chopped it up and pasted it back together again when I was editing it down for teenagers. Sorry!


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.


What influenced you to write the adventures of Alanna?

Alanna just sort of sprang into my head, but in terms of looks and attitude she’s very much like my younger sister Kim, who grew up to become an officer in the Air Force and then a paramedic and then a nurse, so she really is a hero.


Do you have any plans to write about an older Alanna?

In short stories, maybe. It depends on how far I get. I’d like to branch out a bit and try some new things, but I have finished a short story about Alanna as a first-time mother that I think people will like when it finally comes out.


Character Questions: Kel (and friends)

After Alanna, why did you choose to write another girl knight?

In the mid-1990s, I realized what a hold the image of a girl in armor had on my readers and on me.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t really explored the idea of female knights to the fullest when I wrote Alanna’s story, and that I wanted to give it another try.

I didn’t want to do Alanna again; I wanted someone different.  Keladry of Mindelan is her own person, with her own challenges and problems, and with different ways to deal.  She prefers different weapons, and unlike Alanna, who is a loner hero, Kel is a good commander. I also wanted to do someone more like most people in her world, forced to live with magic and mages while having no magic of her own.  Most importantly, I wanted someone who everyone knew was a girl. She wouldn’t be put to the struggle Alanna had to hide her sex, but she would be the victim of hazing (I grew up with girls entering the country’s military academies and what they faced, and Shannon Faulkner’s ordeal at the Citadel was much in the news when I began Kel’s story).  How would she react? How could she react? She was something new and strong for me, and I love her dearly. She’s her own person, just as Alanna is herself first and foremost.


Will we ever see Kel again?

Certainly I hope that I’ll be able to do some stories with Kel. I miss her and I would love to have the chance, so we’ll see. However, I’m not planning anything with her at present, although there may be short stories to come. Right now I’m kinda backed up.


What’s Kel’s sexuality? Does she ever have a romance with Dom?

I’ve gotten this question a lot over the years, and my response was always that I’m still thinking about it. And I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it for a long, long time. While I’ve been thinking, Kel has been living her life. While she’s been doing all the work, we’ve both discovered that she doesn’t really have the time for or interest in romance. Her inclination for it has faded as time goes on, and I have come to understand that she may in fact simply be uninterested in romance. She is now, anyway.

Kel has come to a space in her life where she finds that she’s not interested in romantic or physical relationships with anybody. Friendships yes, she thrives on friendships, and family-type relationships, but romantic ones leave her feeling confused. And the older Kel gets, the messier it all seems. She may have enjoyed kissing well enough when she did it, but lately, whenever the thought occurs to her it’s outweighed by all of the other things she could be doing with her time, and the interest fades soon enough.

In short, Kel is both aromantic and asexual.


How does Tobe’s future turn out?

He stays with the Lady. She needs someone to look after her. She doesn’t pay attention to things like proper meals and making sure she has new boots for the winter! If she’s not going to have a man to look after her, well, he’s going to have to take the job. Somebody has to keep people from bothering her. Even if he’s gotta deal with them himself.

Kel knows he thinks all of these things, and she finds it rather amusing. Since she’s damned if anyone else is going to look after her boy properly except her, she’s fine with the way things are. I mean, some day he’ll probably find a partner and Kel will find work for his partner, because that’s what families do.


What’s Kel’s life after her books? Does she have a happy ending?

I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s awfully good, and she’s got the right temperament. It remains for Jon to see that she’ll be accepted, but at some point, after something like ten years at New Hope, she’ll be shifted to other parts of the country to see how she manages with other lords, other groups of the Own, other groups of the army, and other threats to the kingdom. Hill men, coastal raiders.

I think by the time she’s 45 or so, she’ll either be moved into command in the army or she’ll be head of the King’s Own. She gets along with other knights and other lords a lot better than Alanna does. She’s a lot more like Raoul in that respect. She works a lot better with the King and Queen than Raoul does, sometimes. (Raoul gets along better with Thayet.)

In the mean time she takes whatever position she gets, she doesn’t offend people by walking in and saying “I’m going to set this place right,” she talks to not just the commanders, but the foot soldiers and the servants and the local people. She does her own shopping, at least until Tobe catches up, and if somebody has a problem with her she offers to take it to the training yard. Usually the problem goes away.


Do you still plan on writing a book about Kel’s squire?

It doesn’t look like it at the moment. What I may do is a short story or two, just so I can scratch the itch.