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:
Squire (Protector of the Small #3) by Tamora Pierce (Listening Library, 2007)
Also reviewed here:
All Booked Up