Published: May 23rd 2000
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: Protector of the Small
In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. 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. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out...
As I mentioned in a previous post, Tamora Pierce's books came up in conversation recently. Which got me thinking about how I've never finished this series, The Protector of the Small. I honestly can't remember why I stopped after the first book. Probably college, it's the reason I didn't finish a lot of series I started in the summer. So, with a Reread square on our BINGO boards this year, I figured it was time to pick this series back up.
To be honest it had been so long since I originally picked up First Test I couldn't honestly remembered what happened in the book. I did remember Kel and Neal, and the fact it takes places several years after the last book about Alanna. The rest of the details were a little blurry. Like I honestly forgot how much I wanted that spidren to eat Joren. The farther into the story I got, the more I started to remember. I had to force myself to put the book down to go to work yesterday, and it was the first thing I picked up tonight when I finally crawled out of traffic.
It was great to be back in Tortall and remembering all the reasons I love Tamora Pierce's writing style. True to form, Tamora Pierce doesn't waste any time getting to the point. From the first page your thrown into the start of the story, the first girl since Alannah has signed up to be a Page. Without hitting a bump the plot doesn't stop its steady pace forward as we meet our main character, Keladry as she gets the news of the conditions of her becoming a Page. The rest of the story is told from her point of view.
I didn't mind how quickly the plot moved throughout First Test. The book targets for a much younger crowd, and I think the pace is meant to keep them interested. While I wouldn't mind a few more chapters to set up the world around Tortall, I never felt like I wasn't getting backstory as the plot moved.
All of the characters are wonderfully written. We know the most about Keladry and slowly start to learn more about the other characters as they start to become important to Kel. Though we were never bogged down with backstory. It was little things that happened as the plot unfolded that we'd learn about the Pages as they came into Kel's life.
One of the things I do remember about reading this book the first time is really liking Kel. She stands up to the bully's, even if she knows it'll be downfall as first year Page on probation, and through this she starts to earn some of the other Pages respect. Rereading it now, a little older, I found I spent a great amount of the book wishing she'd get over the differences setting her apart: whether was her actually being a girl or living with on the Yamani Islands. There were a great number of moments where she got in her own way and I wished I could have shaken her told her to suck it up.
However, I did have to remind myself Kel is ten during the First Test, so there's bound to be a bit of that.
Nealan, though. I still adore him. Mostly because he's kind of my spirit animal. Nearly decade has passed since I first read First Test, and I still adore this characters.
Buy or Burrow: Burrow this one! It's a good read, but I don't think it'll be one of her books I come back to any time soon.