This is only like my FAVORITE TAMORA PIERCE SERIES EVER, no big deal. I feel like it’s so hard to explain why I love this series so much – I kind of just want to say JUST READ IT AND YOU’LL UNDERSTAND! And sometimes I don’t know why I love certain books when there are probably similar books out there, but The Protector of the Small is The One for me. I reread it almost every year, and when I want comfort books, this is the series I turn to.
When I was in high school, I went to the library almost everyday after school to volunteer, and during my downtime, I’d inevitably turn to the Fantasy section and walk straight towards the “P” section for all the Pierce books. (Pros: Gail Carson Levine and Philip Pullman were also close by!) There were these wonderful shiny hardcover copies of Squire and Lady Knight that I would just claim for as long as I could, and I’M JUST IN LOVE. (So all my Tamora Pierce reviews are less of reviews and more of me ranting about my life, sorry in advance, haha.)
Long story short, the realm of Tortall is finally accepting its first girl into the knighthood training program in a hundred years (Alanna didn’t count since she hid that she was a girl), and ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan stepped up at the chance. However, she’s been put on probation by the training master, and has to handle bullying from the boys and being at a physical disadvantage. Kel is determined to show everyone that she can make it, and in the process, gains some valuable friends and makes some enemies too. I fell in love with Kel and her gang in this book – Kel is so different compared to Alanna in that Kel is quieter and more “average” in terms of looks, so maybe that’s why I could relate with her more. Her tenacity and firm belief in doing the right thing particularly stand out in my mind, since the plotline allows those characteristics to shine through. This first book in the quartet has plenty of action and adventure, and allows us to revisit good ol’ Tortall while getting us familiar with the new characters.
Ta-dah! Kel’s made it through probation! (Oops, was that a spoiler? You kind of expected it, right? Since she’s the heroine and all and the story can’t go on without her?) The knighthood training consists of four years as a page (modern translation: middle school), four years as a squire (high school, shadowing teachers/employed professionals), and pass the Ordeal of Knighthood (yay job!). This book details Kel’s next three years as a page. Life as a page isn’t easy, and Kel continues to try to balance her studies with her extracurriculars (ex. going on an anti-bullying campaign, essentially) and her developments into womanhood. Tammy always manages to fit so much time into one book without making it boring, and I was totally engrossed in seemingly mundane things. Also, more animals in this book!
Kel has survived four years as a page, and is moving on to being a squire under either an active duty knight or a desk knight in the palace. After facing prejudice and resistance as The Girl for four years, Kel faces new problems as she starts to become exposed to the rest of the world. She makes new friends and new enemies, and learns how to be a great leader in the process. She also (unfortunately?) gets stuck with a baby griffin (as you can see from the cover), which sounds like an awesome experience… but it’s not. I like how nothing is idealized or sugarcoated in this series (as well as other Tammy books) – if something sucky happens, it happens and becomes a learning experience. That said, bad things (ex. character death) doesn’t happen for no reason. Kel’s “high school” years are so much more exciting than mine, and maybe that’s why Squire is the book I read most often from this series when I was in high school, haha. 😄
My favorite book in this series, if I had to choose. Kel becomes a full-fledged knight, but is disappointed when she’s put in charge of a refugee camp instead of being out in combat. However, fate has more in store for her than just that… this is the culmination of all things great about The Protector of the Small series: great friendships, great plot, amazing characters. SO MUCH LOVE FOR LADY KNIGHT!!!
Altogether, The Protector of the Small quartet is AWESOME on so many levels. We get to see nine years’ worth of character development, and Tammy doesn’t disappoint. There’s never a dull moment, and every character contributes to the plot. Another amazing thing about this quartet is that there’s so much political and historical development, although unlike the previous Tortall heroines who were placed at critical moments of history being rewritten, Kel was not. It’s like discovering a new part of the world – the picture of Tortall in my head just got a lot more colorful and a lot bigger after these books!
Also, I AM IN LOVE WITH TORTALL FANART! I especially love minuiko’s depictions of the Tortallan heroines, and her Kel art is just amazing… she’s a big Kel fan too! The Tortall Comics Project is where the cool kids hang out, so that’s where I’ve quenched my PotS needs.