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First Test by Tamora Pierce
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I almost burst into tears when I finished this book. My reaction took me by surprise because I've read First Test at least four or five times. It shouldn't still affect me like this, but it does. It's a fairly simple story, but I love it so very much, and I adore Kel.

The only thing I can recall being interested in when I was younger that was "for boys only" was comics. There was this comic shop right near my high school that I used to go to during my lunch period. It had a fabulous bargain section, perfect for someone just starting out and still trying to figure out their tastes. I'd buy something every week or two and put up with the grumpy guy who owned the place. Except I eventually figured out he wasn't grumpy with everyone, just me. He was nice and helpful towards adults and teenage boys, while I got lectured about the way I touched the comics, or about being in the store too long without buying something. After a while, I stopped buying individual comics and just read graphic novels, which I could get at bookstores or libraries. No more grumpy comic shop guy.

Kel dealt with a lot more than just lectures. After Alanna the Lioness became the first female knight (by spending several years pretending to be a boy), it was proclaimed that girls could become pages. Ten years later, Keladry of Mindelan became the first girl to request to become a page. Her request was granted, but, to satisfy Lord Wyldon, the hidebound training master, she was put on probation for a year.

Like I said, this story was pretty simple. There were no “dark political intrigue” subplots, just “can Kel make it through her training and be accepted back next year?” She had an uphill battle. The boys wrecked her room, hardly anyone wanted to be her sponsor, and bullies picked on her whenever the teachers weren't looking. No one expected her to be around next year.

Kel was quite possibly the most mature 10-year-old ever, stoically putting up with a certain level of treatment and fighting back when her sense of justice demanded it and the rules permitted it (sort of). She had spent six years of her life living in the Yamani Islands (the fantasy equivalent of Japan?) with her parents and had picked up the Yamani custom of hiding her feelings and controlling her emotions. She had also had a little bit of weapons training, because even the most timid of Yamani court ladies got such training.

Kel was probably the most perfect possible first official female page, but she wasn't disgustingly so. She'd get frustrated from time to time, and her brutal schedule and the bullying she had to endure meant she couldn't always finish all her coursework. Her prior weapons training sometimes meant she had habits she needed to unlearn when learning to use similar but differently handled weapons.

I enjoyed Kel's growing friendships with the various other pages, and I liked Neal, her sponsor. As a fan of fantasy animal companions, Kel's little flock of sparrows and grumpy Peachblossom made me happy. Kel wasn't magically gifted herself (which I actually kind of liked), but some of the other characters were. Bonedancer, a living archaeopteryx skeleton, Numair, a mage, and Daine, a Wildmage, all made appearances.

The only way my copy of this book is ever leaving my possession is if I one day gift it to one of my nieces or it falls apart.

Extras:

A map of the kingdom of Tortall, a "cast of characters" section, and a glossary.

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jul 20, 2014 |
I like Keladry, but this first book has relatively few of my favorite scenes. The world is already quite familiar to me - I read Alanna as the books came out - so there's not a lot of worldbuilding going on (that I notice). The characters that are introduced are mostly pretty opaque - Kel herself, and to some extent Neal, reveal themselves at least in part. Lord Wyldon, though, keeps as bland a face as Kel's Yamani stoneface - until his last appearance, we get basically no insight into him. Kel's enemies among the pages, the various senior squires and knights and others in the palace, and even the friends she makes among the pages are little more than background and very simple actions - _why_ does Joren behave that way? Why does Baron Myles offer friendship? No clues, beyond the actions themselves. Which is not to say it's not an enjoyable story - I think I like Keladry best of all the Tortallan heroes. Just - this isn't my favorite of her quartet. Next, please! ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Feb 13, 2014 |
This was my very first Tamora Pierce book. I read it at age 12, and it started a love for this author that has not swayed to this day. ( )
  EmilieM | Oct 27, 2013 |
Keladry is, quite frankly, the best female hero I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. Shockingly mature for her age, she faces challenges that most young girls don't have to worry about (as well as some challenges all girls DO have to worry about). As the first female knight since the Lioness, who masqueraded as a man to complete her knighthood, Keladry has to be strong and stoic despite her age. I would recommend this book to anyone in just about any age group. I first read it when I was eleven, and I still reread the whole series about once a year over ten years later. It has the perfect blend of inspiration, fantasy, realism, and adventure. Throughout the series there is just a hint of romance without affecting the plot or even the characters. Over all, I think this is Tamora Pierce's best series (and I do like them all). ( )
  blparrow | Sep 8, 2013 |
I'm still very pleased with Ms. Pierce. Keladry's another great character.

The main source I use to see what age group a book is marketed to lists this as YA, 12 and up. I found this first book of the quartet to read more like middle grade or that 11 to 14 or 15 that straddles MG & YA which I labeled juvenile-ya among my bookshelves here. It lists the couple books I checked from the Song of the Lioness as 11 to 14 and that series read more like YA to me. ( )
  Yona | May 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tamora Pierceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tenneson, JoyceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jacqueline Korn and Bruce Hunter, the embodiment of English grace.
To Mallory, who totally made it happen (1999 Random House Fantasy paperback edition)
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Alanna the Lioness, the King's Champion, could hardly contain her glee.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
"You have one year in which to prove that you can keep up with the boys. If you do not satisfy me on that count, you will go home."

It's ten years since royal decree permitted girls to train as knights. No one applied - until now. Keladry of Mindelan is determined to follow in the footsteps of the nation's greatest legend: Alanna, Lioness of Tortall. She's in for a nasty surprise.

The royal training master, Lord Wyldon of Cavall, thinks girls should stick to embroidery. He will take her for one year only - on probation. If Keladry doesn't meet his exacting standards, she's out.

It seems so unfair. Keladry knows she's equal to any of the boys, but how can she hope to succeed when Lord Wyldon's mind is already made up?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679889175, Mass Market Paperback)

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:25 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Ten-year-old Keladry of Mindalen, daughter of nobles, serves as a page but must prove herself to the males around her if she is ever to fulfill her dream of becoming a knight.

» see all 8 descriptions

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