What a great start to the next Tortall series by Tamora Pierce. A lot of what I want to say about this series I'm saving for the later books, so for now: If you're new to Tortall, you can start here easily; if you're familiar with the world, this entry in its history is not to be missed. Kel is learning to be a page and I wanted to read about her learning. He was the kind who would shove someone into a puddle. All of the other first-year pages had been able to keep their lances from pointing at the ground. Maybe it was just too simplistic for me? But what if custom is wrong? Kel has to deal with really nasty bullying, sexism from her peers and authority figures, separation from her family, uncertainty about her future, an exhausting daily schedule that would give me a nervous breakdown, and actual peril to her life.
Next to the battle against good and evil. More timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is Anti-Bullying 101 while also touching on issues of bravery, friendship, and dealing humanely with refugees against a backdrop of an action-packed fantasy adventure. But this heroïne also honors her former teachers. It was written over a decade later, after all. The book outlines Kel's first year as a page, in which she is constantly tormented by those who do not want a girl in their midst and count her as an intruder if not even enemy. That's something this series gets very right: even the best of intentions don't always translate practically.
But Kel is ready to face the prejudices. I started this series with the thought that it was going to be a do over of Pierce's previous, successful Alanna the Lioness Quartet, which followed a girl named Alanna, of course who dressed like a boy and took her twin brother's place in page training while he took her place in magic school not dressed as a girl. Her stories still lead the vanguard today. I wrote about this a little bit already, but I have to reiterate it here because it makes me so happy. Kel stills seems far too wise beyond her years to me, and her lack of emotion is annoying, especially in the earlier books.
All in all, this book was a great way to revisit Tortall and see the first year of being a Page from another perspective and in another time. Kel will not allow this first test to be her last. Cracking open one of her marvelous novels always feels like coming home. Plus, Kel is at her worst here when it comes to masking her emotions. Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! My biggest problem was that Kel is a 10 year old girl, but at no time did she actually act like it. Had Neal known about this? Maybe I'm obsessing over age differences, but it's because Pierce has conditioned me to do so.
Neal's my favorite, though, so I don't like when his brains are discounted. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. These student warriors would outrank her in the Yamani Islands. This girl would get any warriors who serve with her killed on some dark night. Was Jonathan inclined to give way to the man who'd saved his children? Kel stuck her little finger inside and scraped the dark sub stance.
Kel bowed to him, found Neal, and took her seat. I was actually okay with that going into this series, since I love Alanna and think that there are far worse things Kel could have been than just like her. Without it, we are only animals. Going straight to her room, she changed from her dress to practice clothes. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. There is a little bit of drama because Wyldon might expel Kel after her probationary year, but I was never worried she would fail.
Was Sir Myles being sarcastic? Terrier will be in strong demand by Pierce's fans. So in the first chapter or so, when Kel finds a spidren biting the heads off kittens, I was deeply disturbed. But by being honest about her sex, Keladry makes herself vulnerable to all sorts of sexism and abuse. Five characters mentioned in the first sentence. When I read the books years ago, I loved them, and saw Alanna as a hero, but now, as a college freshman, I see her character a little differently.
Most senior pages understood that first-years had little time for their work and gave them tasks that were small and quickly done. While our protagonist, Kelandry of Mindalen, is following the same path as Alanna, the road the walks is completely different. Why are you allowed to be stupid whenever it's convenient for the plot? Kel reversed the spear and cut back, dragging the blade down. As he did, Zahir shoved another heavy book off the table. She is strong, ready to prove to everyone how wrong they are about her. During this first year, Kel is constantly bullied and experiences hazing and abuse the likes of which Alanna never saw. She began to oil and polish the wood anew, thinking.
You really want to keep him? Why would Wyldon refuse Joren as Kel's sponsor? Instead, she uses her strength and determination to prove herself to even the most skeptical trainers. I started writing stories in 6th grade. The four books of that quartet follow her progress from page, to squire, to knight and king's champion--with her sex being discovered along the way. Perhaps the strictest of her teachers is Lord Wyldon himself. Her stories still lead the vanguard today. Lord Wyldon will never let you stay.
But this story is different. A+++ Before starting to read the Protector of the Small quartet, I read that Kel was just another Alanna and that the books are basically Song of the Lioness all over again. My biggest problem was that Kel is a 10 year old girl, but at no time did she actually act like it. The beginning is what made me feel as though the plot would move too quickly and be without depth which is typical of children's books , but after a few chapters I was able to immerse myself into the world and the pacing settled down perfectly - although that doesn't mean that I had an easy time putting the book down. Where the Lioness is hot-tempered and loud, Daine is timid yet stubborn, Aly is quiet and calculating, and Kel is even and impenetrable.