Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The code of chivalry

In this third installment of the Protector of the Small quartet, Keladry of Mindelan is fourteen years old and extremely tall for her age. Now that her page years are officially over, she longs to gain some practical experience in the field. Her worst nightmare is becoming squire to a "desk" night and being stuck doing paperwork for the rest of her career.

Kel has a burning desire to protect the defenseless and defend her country, something that has been evident in all her actions since the first book in the series, which is why she started down the difficult path of being the first female page in the first place. But when no knights come forward to ask her to be their squire, even the prospect of a boring desk job starts to look good.

Her dream - the dream she's had since before she became a page - is to serve as squire to the Lady Alanna. But when her best friend, Neal of Queenscove, confesses that Alanna has requested for him to be her page, Kel is devastated.

During her long wait at the castle for a knight to request her, Kel is both fascinated and repelled by the Chamber of the Ordeal, a magical chamber into which all squires, in order to attain their knighthood, must enter. No one talks about what happens inside, but the sudden paleness in their face when the ordeal is mentioned does nothing to soothe Kel's fears. As with anything that scares her, Kel must do what she can to confront it. When she places her hands against the bronze door of the chamber, it throws her into nightmarish situations in which she is exposed to all her deepest fears.

This is an exciting continuation of the series, in which Kel learns a great deal about politics, commanding soldiers in battle, and the true nature of chivalry - and also learns a lot about herself and the kind of knight she wants to be. When I was growing up, there were, of course, lots of books about girls - but it seemed the ones I enjoyed the most were so often about boys doing fun, exciting things, especially when it came to action and adventure, warfare and chivalry. I'm glad there are so many more books - many of them by Pierce - that feature strong heroines doing exciting things. But this series goes beyond the gender-barrier-breaking theme. It depicts a character with a burning drive and a deep commitment her goal, despite uncertainty, criticism and outright malice from others, never compromising her integrity. And that's something to inspire any reader.

Books in the Protector of the Small series:
  1. First Test
  2. Page
  3. Squire
  4. Lady Knight
Squire (Protector of the Small #3) by Tamora Pierce (Listening Library, 2007)

Also reviewed here:
All Booked Up

5 comments:

  1. I haven't read any of Pierce's work but I have loved the covers for this series.

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  2. I've started the Song of the Lioness series, mainly because I read your reviews and made me think that I might enjoy Tamora Pierce. It's exciting to think that even when I'll finish with Alanna there will still be more the explore:)

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  3. Carl - I think they recently redid them with these new covers, which I like so much more than the old ones. These have got to be more appealing to teens.

    Valentine - I hope you are enjoying them! I recently noticed that the same reader who does the Keladry audiobooks also reads the Alanna ones, which is enough to make me plan to revisit them in audio format one of these days.

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  4. I have enjoyed reading your reviews of this series so far. It is a new author to me so it's interesting to get more ideas for my list of books toread! I know what you mean about strong female leads in stories, there just seem to be so many more of them now compared to when I was growing up and that wasn't that long ago!

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  5. Rhinoa - I find myself thinking about that kind of thing more now that I'm choosing books to read to my girls. They loved Detectives in Togas (written in the 50s), but it's such a boy book! That's fine, though, because there are plenty of other books to balance it out, so they aren't unconsciously getting the idea that fun and excitement are for the boys. It surprises me now how very many of my favorites from my childhood are "boy" books.

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