Keladry of Mindelan returns in this second book in the Protector of the Small series. Her first, probationary year as page has passed, and she is now truly one of the other pages. No longer is the constant threat of failure hanging over her head; she is familiar with the routine of hard training in the morning, long, demanding classes in the afternoon.
Even so, these subsequent years of page training are harder in many respects: heavy weights are added to the uniform, making running and fighting even more difficult; the same boys who tried their hardest to sabotage her efforts the first year are back, equally determined to make Keladry's life difficult. They are older and more cunning, and Keladry must find other ways of foiling their efforts than physical force. Kel is also finding herself attracted to Nealan of Queenscove, her sponsor and best friend from the first year. But he only sees her as one of the boys, becoming infatuated with one or another of the lovely court ladies, bemoaning the fact that they don't know he exists.
There is plenty of action and adventure in this installment, as Kel meets up with a group of desperate bandits during patrol, and must conquer her paralyzing fear of heights in order to get all her group members to safety. Kel's leadership earns her the respect of her fellow pages, and she finds unexpected support in her efforts to resist the underhanded actions of those others who wish to thwart her.
Kel continues to be an admirable heroine, making mistakes but learning from them, and growing up along the way. She is feisty and kind, always taking the part of the weak and defenseless, rescuing stray dogs and taking shy housemaids under her wing - and she gains as much from their friendship as they do from hers. Bernadette Dunne's narration enhances the story, bringing characters to life, and she has a wonderful way of putting an occasional smile into her voice as she reads that invariably has me smiling along with her.
In a series that culminates with the book Lady Knight, there is never any doubt that Keladry will succeed in her quest - but it is a delight to watch her make her way. The castle has become a familiar, welcoming place, from the classrooms to the armory, the kitchens to the library, and I look forward to accompanying Kel through their halls in the next book in the series.
Books in the Protector of the Small series:
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