Author: Tamora Pierce
Published: June 7, 1999
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Series: Protector of the Small #1
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
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“You know, ogres only sound stupid. Most are pretty smart."My Thoughts
"And it's a shallow person who judges anyone by the way they sound. I'm so shallow I'm surprised I don't reflect myself.”
― Tamora Pierce, First Test
When Alanna became the King's Champion, it was decided that girls would henceforth be allowed to train for the knighthood. But ten years have passed, and no girls have come forward. Now, however, someone is about to change all that. Her name is Kel. In this first book in a new series from popular children's fantasy writer Tamora Pierce, we are introduced to a strong, adventurous new heroine who will win the hearts and minds of fantasy fans. (Goodreads)
Tamora Pierce has to be one of my favorite fantasy authors. Time and again, she has transported me to the magical realm of Tortall and it's always difficult to return to reality after finishing one of her books. I'm ashamed to admit that I've had the Protector of the Small series sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I'm just reading it now. I loved Pierce's Song of the Lioness and Daughter of the Lioness series, and so far, I'm loving the Protector of the Small series.
First Test takes place in Tortall, and returning to this setting was like coming home. I love Tortall with its fierce women and its magical creatures. Pierce never fails with the world building. I especially love the animals in Tortall. The characters in Pierce's books seem to hold the highest respect for animals. Of course, there are a few exceptions when it comes to mean characters who abuse animals, but for the most part, animals are included as main characters. In First Test, the wildmage Daine, from the Immortals series, is living in the palace, and her presence causes the palace animals to act almost human. I adored the sparrows that hang around Kel, especially their leader, Crown. I also loved Kel's horse Peachblossom, despite his unpredictable temper, he was a faithful steed, and his name is so unfitting for him that it's automatically hilarious.
As for the characters in First Test, I loved them. I adored Kel's fellow pages, especially Neal. Neal is such a sweetheart, and I found Kel's and his camaraderie heartwarming. As for Kel, she was wonderful. Despite all of the challenges thrown her way, she never gives in. She puts everything into her training, and she works extra hard to prove that she can accomplish anything a male can. While she is fierce, she also has a huge heart. She refuses to let Joren and his cronies bully the smaller pages (hence the title of the series). She stands up for what she believes in, and she also inspires others to do the same. She is a natural leader, and I admired her greatly. I'd have to say she is one of my favorite heroines, along with Alanna, and I cannot wait to continue reading about her journey to knighthood.
Pierce's novels communicate some really positive, feminist messages, and First Test is no exception to this rule. Kel is portrayed as a strong, independent female, finding her way in an area which was formally all male besides the King's Champion. In her quest to become a knight, she overcomes many obstacles, including her training master's negative opinions. There are many times when the other pages bully her in an attempt to dash all her hopes, but she perseveres and forms many lifelong friendships with the other pages. As Kel is tested again and again, I cheered her on and enjoyed watching her grow closer to her dream.
I have already finished Page and I'm now starting Squire. I'm just flying through these books! I would recommend this series to any Tamora Pierce or fantasy fans who have yet to read it. These books offer both quick reads and excellent storytelling.