First Test: Protector of the Small Book 1

I am super excited to be starting Tamora Pierce’s third Tortall series, Protector of the Small, and not just because The Immortals Quartet makes me a little queasy. Protector of the Small starts a year after the events at the end of The Realms of the Gods and ten years after our beloved King J passed a proclamation saying girls can train to be knights. Finally someone takes up that challenge! Keladry, or Kel as she is called, faces a lot of the same challenges as Alanna did in her training, although without having to pretend to be a boy. In a lot of ways, this is worse, since she faces constant prejudice and unfair treatment both from her peers and some of her teachers. Though Kel looks up to Alanna, she’s very clearly Alanna’s opposite. Where Alanna has a temper, Kel strives to constantly “be as stone” and not let her emotions show. Her biggest pet peeve is anyone picking on someone smaller–hence “Protector of the Small”–and then she doesn’t hesitate to stoically kick some ass. Possibly because I’m more like my homegirl Alanna, it took me awhile to warm up to Kel, but I think by the end of Book 1 we are now BFFs. Middle School Patricia was less forgiving. Plus, by the time she read First Test, it was 8th grade, she was older, wiser, and had largely moved on to longer though not necessarily better literature. In consequence, I hardly remember anything about the two Kel books I know I did read, besides being constantly annoyed that nobody stepped in to make things more fair. Stupid boys.

In this first book, Lord Wyldon, the stodgy guy in charge of pages, insists that Kel serve a “probationary” year even though no boys have to, supposedly because he wants any excuse to send her home. Kel is pretty pissed at this, and the many other, injustices she finds waiting for her at the palace, but she grew up in Ancient Japan the Yamani Islands, where she was taught that to show emotion is to show weakness so she just shuts up and deals. Unlike Alanna, she has to earn most of her friends, since almost all the other pages hate her on sight. You know, because boys suck. Where Alanna feared cold most of all, Kel fears heights (future plot point, I’m sure). Kel is also the first main character in a Tamora Pierce series that doesn’t have some kind of magic, which Middle School Patricia thought was pretty boring, but I think is pretty cool.

The Checklist

Animal Companion(s): Peachblossom (bitchy horse), Crown and her flock (sparrows)
Magical Bling: None yet, but she does have some lucky cat charms
Love Interest(s): None yet, she’s only 10!
Song the Lioness/Immortals character sightings: King J and Healer Baird’s sons are both pages and Kel’s friends; Daine and Numair each make a brief appearance; Sir Myles, Lindhall, and Tkaa the Basilisk are all teachers; Sir Raoul shows up at the end to kick some spidren ass. Alanna is pouting somewhere else because everyone wants her to stay away from Kel.

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one: Decisions
Lord Wyldon doesn’t want to let a girl page in, but King J makes him. Alanna has to stay away because people will say Kel helped her cheat her way through. Kel wants to say no because probation is so totally not fair, then she is attacked by a spidren in the forest and realizes she needs any training she can get. If they send her home after a year, “I’ll still know more than I do now”(17).

Chapter two: Not so Welcome
Kel’s room is wrecked by mean boys her first day so the head servant gets her a special lock. Older pages have to sponsor younger pages and no one wants to sponsor Kel, I assume because they fear her raw girl power. Finally Neal of Queenscove, son of Duke Baird the chief healer, is all “Whatevs, I’ll do it.” He’s 15, not 10, because he started late after dropping out of healer college. He also sasses the teachers pretty much always.

Chapter three: The Practice Courts
Kel makes friends with a sparrow flock and her combat teachers learn she’s studied with the Yamani warriors so she is already awesome at some fighting. The other pages she’s paired with are mean and try to trip her or knock her out of line, especially Joren and his friends. Everyone chooses horses in a hurry so she’s left with mean, big Peachblossom, but if she gives him up he’ll be made into glue.

Chapter four: Classrooms
Sir Myles is still the best teacher ever! Apparently Prince Roald is betrothed to a Yamani princess, which makes the etiquette teacher all about Yamani etiquette, which means he makes Kel help him out and she stands out again. Some boys peed on her door because they couldn’t break in! Stupid boys. But when she gets back from supper she finds a mysterious present of a strong new knife! Who could it be from????

Chapter five: Kel Backs Away
Kel’s foot hurts because Peachblossom stepped on it. Neal heals it for her, and then they go find Daine to stage a Peachblossom-intervention. Daine now lives with Numair, and Neal clearly has a huge crush on her. Peachblossom promises to be good to Kel if she doesn’t use spurs on him. On her way back, Kel finds Joren and his friends pushing around Merric, another first year. She wants to stop them, but worries that fighting will get her sent home so she runs away, then feels bad about it.

Chapter six: The Lance
They start working with lances! Kel’s is SUPER HEAVY and she can barely lift it. She feels bad when she fails because OMG handsome Sir Raoul of Goldenlake, commander of the King’s Own, is watching. This is the same guy that thought Alan actually being Alanna was the funniest joke ever. Kel starts doing arm exercises to make her arms stronger.

Chapter seven: Kel Takes a Stand
Kel discovers that her lance is so heavy because someone put a whole bunch of lead in it! She suspects Joren. She decides she’ll keep the lance like it is to make her a stronger, better fighter. She see’s Joren and Co. being mean to Merric again, so she starts a fight! She loses, natch, but gets in many a good punch. Lord Wyldon expects her to want to give up now that her nose is broken, but she is still all about being a knight. Duke Baird heals her nose and is all “Say hey to that MILF mom of yours”. Kel is weirded out.

Chapter eight: Winter
They start practicing with swords! Some of the pages are treating Kel more like one of them, but Joren and Co. are still jerks. Also, Christmas Midwinter presents! Including a mysterious jar of super powerful “bruise balm”! Who could it be from??? Neal says that “someone with money and taste knows what a page needs and wants you to have it”(140). Gosh, who could that be? Kel gets in another fight with Joren and Co. when they pick on another first year.

Chapter nine: Tests
Kel starts patrolling the halls at night, looking for Joren and Co. being asshats. Finally her friends realize what she’s doing and start coming with her. Finally, there are so many of them on Bully Patrol that Joren pretty much gives up. At least, FOR NOW. Lord Wyldon makes them run around the castle walls and Kel must face her fear of heights. Everyone laughs at her, but Lord Wyldon tries to help her. Kind of. Kel is finally awesome at jousting! Pages have to get tested once a year in public to prove that no one is cheating like some people think Alanna did. Kel is nervous, but passes!

Chapter ten: The Royal Forest
Page Summer Camp!!! Some of the pages like Joren bitch that they have to ride through rainstorms, but when Lord Wyldon asks her, Kel tells him that it’s her duty to be obedient to him since he’s in charge. Then a visiting Yamani Shang Warrior (basically a ninja) tells Lord Wyldon about how Kel’s mom once kicked some pirate ass and saved Yamani sacred stuff. EVEN THOUGH SHE’S A WOMAN OMG. They get to summer camp, and some boys try to surprise her while she’s visiting the “ladies latrine trench” but her sparrows peck them away. Lord Wyldon wants them to climb trees and draw maps but Kel is still afraid of heights. He starts making Kel climb trees all the time to face her fear.

Chapter eleven: Spidren Hunt
There are spidrens in the forest! The pages have to help Sir Raoul and the King’s Own hunt them, but apparently giant immortal spider-man monsters are hard to hunt. Luckily, Kel’s sparrows lead them to the right cave! Kel and some other pages are lookouts/sentries in the ensuing battle, but one of her page friends freaks out and starts trying to attack a spidren in revenge-fueled bloodlust. Of course, the spidren laughs at the puny human, and Kel is forced to save his life. Stupid boys. Everyone is sad that Lord Wyldon will probs make Kel leave anyway. Lord Wyldon tells her that soon she will want different things out of life and her body will change. He asks her to think about it over summer vacay, but that she can come back if she wants. YAY!!! Then her MYSTERY BENEFACTOR WHO IS SO NOT ALANNA AT ALL sends her an awesome new saddle!

This book also had a Cast of Characters and Glossary at the end even though I am ace at remembering Tamora Pierce characters and so don’t need it. I would also probably rewrite some of these entries like “Numair: Pervy mage/teacher” and “Alanna: sometimes has to sit down because she’s too full of grrrrrrrlpower to function”.

Excited to start Protector of the Small Book 2: Page!
Previously: Immortals Book 4: The Realms of the Gods

2 responses to “First Test: Protector of the Small Book 1”

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