(Why two covers? Because we have gloomy, scary looking one at the library, but it is a horrible cover, so have the original as well.)
Ten years after knighthood training was opened to both males and females, no girl has been brave enough to try. But knighthood is Keladry’s one true desire, and so she steps forward to put herself to the test.
Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces one roadblock that seems insurmountable: 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 a probationary trial period that no male page has ever had to endure. Further set apart from her fellow trainees, Kel’s path to knighthood is now that much harder. But she is determined to try, and she’s making friends in the most unlikely places.
This book was published in 1999, but it is as relevant today as it was then. Kel’s a girl just trying to do what she loves, even though everyone keeps telling her she’s not suited for it. She has allies who support her from the start, but they are few and far between and often tend to exhibit bigotry of their own, even without being aware of it. It’s the microagressions that Pierce really nails, with people unconsciously treating Kel differently, even without trying. And Kel often not knowing if she should be mad about special treatment she’s given, or grateful.
Then there’s Kel as a character. She’s stubborn and selfless and so innocent. When Lord Wyldon speaks of her distracting the male students with her presence, she has no idea what he means. Her general lack emotional awareness is coupled with a ridiculous command of physical arts, often something she uses to protect people smaller and/or weaker than her considerable height and stature. She’s a hero in the quietest, truest sense of the term. Her series, starting with First Test, is a pleasure to read.
Tamora Pierce, for those who don’t know her, is a titan of the Fantasy YA world. Many of her books are available through our Overdrive.
Kel’s Story (aka The Protector of the Small Quartet) is all available in audio format on our Overdrive:
The first book is also in our collection at the library.