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First Test (Protector of the Small, Book 1)…

First Test (Protector of the Small, Book 1) (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Tamora Pierce

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3,282381,669 (4.07)85
I appreciate Tamora Pierce's efforts to write strong, independent, inspiring heroines, really I do. It's just that they're starting to get a little Mary Sue-ish, or rather, their Mary Sue-ish-ness is starting to bother. Because... of COURSE Alanna has one of the most powerful magical Gifts in the country, and of COURSE she's the best swordsman of her age, and of COURSE Daine is the most powerful Wildmage there ever was and of COURSE she's also the best archer. Kel's a little better, no magical gift, nothing particularly extraordinary about her, but of COURSE she's trained by age ten in hand-to-hand combat and quarterstaff fighting. This book tells her story as the first girl to enter knight training since Alanna, and the first to do it openly as a female. The book moves along quickly enough as Kel learns to find and assert her place and deal with the bullies, but the central conflict is pretty weak - no one thinks, even for a second, that she's not going to be allowed to continue with her training. Personally, I was more interested in Alanna's story (having to hide that she's a girl) than Kel's (having to deal with bullying because she's a girl), but I'll press on with the series anyways. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Nov 10, 2006 |
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After King Jonathan took the throne, he decreed that women could train as knights as well. But more than a decade has passed since Alanna was unveiled as a female knight, and still no other female member of a noble house has come forth to be trained. No one--until Keladry. The daughter of ambassadors, Kel spent her childhood in lands where women were trained warriors, and intends to become one herself. Jonathon's hide-bound nobles aren't pleased with this change of tradition, and to placate them, Jonathan agrees that Kel will be merely a probationary page, subject to being tossed out at her first failure.

Kel, however, is too damn awesome for that crap. She's the kind of person who, when she discovers her lance has been unfairly weighted with lead, keeps training with the weighted lance in order to become stronger. No matter what they throw at her, she rises to the challenge.

This book was so much fun to read! Energizing and inspiring and thrilling--altogether my favorite kind of wish-fullfillment fantasy. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Description: Tamora Pierce returns to the land of Tortall with a heroine who refuses to quit in this first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Protector of the Small series.

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. One thing is for sure, Kel is not a girl to underestimate.

Thoughts: My main worry for this series is that it's going to return to the insanely brisk pace that the Alanna series had, which was my major complaint. Other than that, I like that we're back in the castle training with the pages instead of hoping all over the world like Daine did.

It's nice to see Kel's journey as a female page, since Alanna's training story didn't get to cover the issues a girl really faces in the "boy's world" of knighthood training. So far, Kel has come up against the same issues of bullying, constant training, and working extra hard to prove that she's as good as everyone else, but Kel also faces outright discrimination from some of the other pages and even her superoirs. It's nice to watch her face up to these with not only strength and positivity, but with a compassion for others.

I think foggidawn might be right in her preference of this quartet over the others. Hopefully it holds back it's breakneck pace.

Rating: 3.58

Liked: 3.5
Plot: 3.5
Characterization: 4
Writing: 3.5
Audio: 3.5

http://www.librarything.com/topic/188600#5167082 ( )
  leahbird | Jul 20, 2015 |
It's been many years since I first read the Alanna books as a young teen myself. I loved the story of Alanna, daring to pretend to be a boy and seek the honor and responsibility of becoming a knight of the realm. It was so wonderful to see a girl out there kicking butt, doing magic, and being a hero.

So when I discovered there was a series about another girl trying to become a knight, some years after Alanna's success, I was hesitant. Hadn't I already read that story? Would it really be engaging and new?

Well, I'm sorry I doubted because Kel's story is indeed engaging and new. For one, she's not pretending to be a boy. She's earning her way as a girl, and fighting for every inch of respect. And she's definitely her own person: quiet and reserved, but fierce in defense of the weak and thoroughly dedicated to her purpose.

Alanna may have paved the way, but Kel doesn't have it easy. I love a good underdog story, and FIRST TEST delivers that, along with a "school" setting, magic, adventure, nastiness and warmth, prejudice and compassion, plus some very insightful comments on bullying and the moral responsibilities of those with power.

I am definitely looking forward to the rest of this series!
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
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.


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 |
A lovely re-read, this series helped ease my Tamora Pierce craving while still too close to my last Alanna/Daine re-reads to be able to do back to that series. Kelandry on her own isn't quite as unique (more of a blend of both of the prior heroines I mentioned), but I like how Pierce explores a character without magic succeeding in this world. ( )
  Capnrandm | Apr 15, 2013 |
All 10-year-old Keladry wants is to be a knight, someone who can protect those who can’t protect themselves. According to the proclamation issued by King Jonathon of Tortall 10 years ago, Kel has every right to try for her shield even if no other girls have stepped forward before now. Kel should be able to go through the four years of page training and schooling just like the boys. She should be able to become a squire and serve a knight for four more years. She should be able to earn her knighthood like everyone else, but Lord Wyldon, the page training master, has other ideas. “Girls are fragile, more emotional, easier to frighten. They are not as strong in their arms and shoulders as men. They tire easily. This girl would get any warriors who serve with her killed on some dark night.” That’s what Wyldon thinks and the only way he will accept Kel is on a one-year probationary period – if she does anything wrong, fails at anything, she’s out. No boy has ever had to have a probation year; it’s just not fair, but Kel accepts the deal knowing the task she’s set for herself may be impossible: change Wyldon’s mind and prove she’s meant to be a knight. Wyldon is far from the only problem Kel faces: the training is grueling, immortal and magical creatures haunt Tortall’s lands, and the other pages don’t appreciate having a girl set in their midst. Kel may not have magic like Alanna, the only current Lady Knight, but all of Tortall will soon learn that Kel is not about to back down from this challenge. Kel will do whatever it takes to prove she’s just as good as any boy and she will become a knight.

Listened to the Listening Library CD edition in September 2007, but I've also read this multiple times. The Protector of the Small books are some of my favorites from Pierce; by the time she wrote these she had really hit her stride. Kel is a great character complete with flaws as well as strengths. With each set of books that take place in Tortall, Pierce increases the complexity and reality of the kingdom. The Listening Library CD was performed by Bernadette Dunne and was fairly well done although it took me a while to warm up to her interpretation of Kel's voice. I look forward to the release of the rest of the quartet on audio.

March 2010 Cover 2 Cover selection for Tamora's visit to our library! ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
Keladry of Mindelan is a young girl, and the only girl to legally try for kinghthood. She is allowed to train under probation and throughout her first year has to physically keep up with the boys and endures non-stop bullying and harassment. The boys put extra weights in her training weapons, force her to run errands and pick fights. Kel does, however have a group of close and reliable friends who she completes her studies with and spends her evenings with. From previous series, Alanna is Kel's idol, someone who Kel looks up to, and later also become Nealan of Queenscove's kinght mistress.
Kel is a loveable character and her experiences and troubles make the story seem more real and believable. This book twists the typical 'knight in shining armor' storyline and is fun to read over again, more than once. Overall, a 4.5/5 ( )
  TLHelen | Nov 6, 2012 |
RGG: One of a series by a very prolific author of fantasy books geared to age 10-14 girls. A good read; appeal to young girls is obvious.
  rgruberexcel | Sep 4, 2012 |
RGG: One of a series by a very prolific author of fantasy books geared to age 10-14 girls. A good read; appeal to young girls is obvious.
  rgruberexcel | Sep 4, 2012 |
I loved the Alanna series when I first read it years ago and remember loving this series just as much. I was thinking about it the other day and so I picked it up, knowing it wouldn't take long to reread. It didn't and I enjoyed it the second time around. Kel is a lovable character and any story about knight training hooks me right off the bat. I believe I still enjoyed Alanna a little more than Kel but this fiery ten-year old has her own charm. ( )
  Kassilem | Jun 25, 2012 |
Keladry of Mindelan wants to become a knight. However, she is the first girl to try openly, and many people don't think she should. In her first year, she has to deal with discrimination, bullying, weighted weapons, and an unruly horse, as well as otherworldly enemies. Fans of spunky heroines, fantasy, and noble adventure will love this series. Ages 10-16. Recommended purchase. ( )
  mossing | Nov 30, 2011 |
A fun read recounting the story of Kel, a young girl who wants to become a knight, but she meets with resistance and prejudice as she takes up her training at the royal palace in the kingdom of Tortall. However, Kel is determined and manages to forge friendships and conquer her own fears. In addition, a few recognizable characters reappear from Tamora Pierce's previous fantasy series and First Test proves to be a promising beginning to a new series. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Oct 28, 2011 |
In "First Test," author Tamora Pierce introduces her fans to the only girl to try for her knighthood since Alanna the Lioness earned her shield disguised as a man and King Jonathan threw open the knighthood to women. Unfortunately, the king has to keep his conservative nobles happy, and therefore consents to put our protagonist through a year of probation as a page, something the boys never have had to do.
Keladry of Mindelan is delightfully different from our old friend Alanna. Kel is blessed with different physical strengths as well as the ability to keep her emotions at bay, so while Kel still has to deal with bullies and hazing, the fact that she is practically Alanna's opposite as well as openly female makes for a very different reading experience than that of the Song of the Lioness quartet. This new series is a joy to read and I highly recommend it to young girls. ( )
  thelorelei | Sep 30, 2011 |
Following in the steps of Alana 'the Lioness' is Keladry (Kel) of Mindelan, a 10-year-old is dead-set on becoming a knight like her hero. Unlike Alana though, Kel doesn't have magic to help her. Instead she has greater bulk and height, as well as training from an island where the marshal arts are taugh -- think Tai Chi, Judo, Kendo.
The setting is the court of King Jonathan of Tortall. The landscape has changed from that of the Lioness Quartet because of the Immortal Wars wherein magical creatures have been let loose on the world.
The other thing that is different is that much of the forward progress that Alana made has vanished. The new knight trainer, Lord Wyldon, strongly believes women and girls have no place as knights. He's so stubborn that he insists he will quit unless the King a) makes Kel's first year probationary, and b) makes Alana swear that she will not communicate with the girl during that time. And as you can well imagine, such an attitude rubs off on the boys, who are just as mean to Kel as they were to Alana in her own time as a page.

This book is great. However it gets boring near the end because they do the samething over and over again. But I like it myself because King Johnathon is giving Kel a chance. I like this because girls can be just as strong as men. What I don't like in this book though is that Alana and Daine aren't in the book as much. Overall it's a great 5/5. ( )
  NickF. | Dec 5, 2010 |
Have ever been told the story of Jean of Arc? Well if you like that you'll love First Test by Tamora Pierce. Keladry of Mindelan, a ten year old is the first "GIRL" to attend trainning for knights in the mystical and medival world of Tortall. You'll feel like your in the book, beside Kel as you read through the pages of Tamora Pierce's First Test.

Keladry of Mindelan also known as Kel is the first girl to ever attend knight trainning after trainning in the royal palace of the Yamani's for six years. after arriving in in her new school in the land of Tortall, she soon finds the difficulties of being a girl in a man's world. she meets the trainning master lord Wyldon who is determined to fail her along with Joren and many others wanting the same, however there are just as many who want to help like the prince Roald and her caring sponsor Neal. Kel is placed on probation by lord Wyldon and given more to endure by her fellow pages and her teachers then any of the male pages through her first year in knight trainning. Sabotage, bullying, and sexism is part of Kel's daily schedule as she struggles to get through her first year. Tamora Pierce's First Test is like a story about Jean of Arc's childhood and represents many struggles that women have in the modern world. It's one the must read books of the year. ( )
  n0evly | Nov 20, 2010 |
I love Tamora Pierce. Love, love, love Tamora Pierce. I'm so sad that I missed her when I was reading YA books as a YA. I want to foist her on every girl I know. And yet, every time I go to read another of her books, I'm resistant at the beginning. I always expect it to be dreadful and it's always completely the opposite.

It's because I think I hate fantasy. Except I obviously don't hate fantasy. I just finished The Protector of the Small quartet, another series set in the kingdom of Tortall, like the Alanna books and the Trickster books, which kingdom is just crawling with mages and people with the Gift and the Sight and thus and such. And I loved it. However, Kel, the heroine, is not magically assisted in any way. She just gets up before dawn and trains with weighted weapons and does everything possible to make herself a total bad-ass in order to defend small creatures and children and servants and the like.

Tamora Pierce's books always make me proud to be a woman. It's like Clare Booth Luce said:

"Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, 'She doesn't have what it takes.' They will say, 'Women don't have what it takes.' "

These girls represent! All her heroines succeed far beyond expectation in a man's world, without surrendering their female-ness at all. They take lovers or not, as they wish, they alone decide when to marry and when to have children, they become completely fearsome warriors and commanders but with "womanly" mercy ... Dare I say it? They are great role models! Would that every twelve-year-old I hand these to is similarly inspired.
  livebug | Sep 7, 2010 |
I only have one complaint about this book. I miss Daine and Alanna! Of course that goes away once you get attached to Kelandry who is one tough girl. Someone any girl can look up to when they need to learn that sometimes the best thing you can do is be strong and stick to what you believe. This is a great first novel for the third quartet placed in Tortall. It is enjoyable and a smooth read. Now that I have been spoiled by Beka Cooper I don’t feel as much of an attachment to Kelandry but as you read on to the next three books in the series you start to love her more and more. She is so strong that I always find that I look up to her. Tamora Pierce definitely knows how to write a strong female lead!

Emma Michaels
http://EmmaMichaels.Blogspot.com ( )
  EmmaMichaels | Sep 6, 2010 |
Set in the Tortall universe, Keladry, like Alanna, seeks to be a lady knight, and at first the kinship with those first Pierce books featuring Alanna seemed quite apparent. But openly female, Keladry faces a different set of challenges, and she's very much a different personality. I fast fell in love with Keladry and the stoic exterior beneath which there is a real chivalry. I particularly liked the arc of Wyldon of Cavall's character in this book. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | May 23, 2010 |
More good kid-friendly lit from Tamora Pierce.

Following in the steps of Alana 'the Lioness' is Keladry (Kel) of Mindelan, a 10-year-old is dead-set on becoming a knight like her hero. Unlike Alana though, Kel doesn't have magic to help her. Instead she has greater bulk and height, as well as training from an island where the marshal arts are taugh -- think Tai Chi, Judo, Kendo.

The setting is the court of King Jonathan of Tortall. The landscape has changed from that of the Lioness Quartet because of the Immortal Wars wherein magical creatures have been let loose on the world.

The other thing that is different is that much of the forward progress that Alana made has vanished. The new knight trainer, Lord Wyldon, strongly believes women and girls have no place as knights. He's so stubborn that he insists he will quit unless the King a) makes Kel's first year probationary, and b) makes Alana swear that she will not communicate with the girl during that time. And as you can well imagine, such an attitude rubs off on the boys, who are just as mean to Kel as they were to Alana in her own time as a page.

Talking Points
It's a pleasure to watch Kel prove herself. She does have her strengths and stoic training which helps her, but so do the boys have their strengths and weaknesses. And, as always, Tamora Pierce's writing is more than competent and entertaining.

It hasn't been but a few weeks since I read the first book in the Alana series. And while the court and the processes of the page's training were similar, I didn't find the books so similar that I wasn't rivoted by First Test. Kel and Alana are different people, as are the boys they find themselves amongst.

I don't know honestly what boys think of this series, but Tamora Pierce gives girls strong role models that don't give up, and who are intelligent and compassionate. I highly recommend Pierce to adventure loving girls which this caveat: This FIRST book is not as good as the following books.

Finally, this series is in the 'Juvenile' section of our library, but I found the personal dilemmas that pop up in the subsequent books to be very much like the ones found in Pierce's YA-books. Which is to say that the author includes conversations about puberty, boys and desire.

Pam T~
mom and reviewer at Booksforkids-reviews.com ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Feb 21, 2010 |
Pierce is one of my all-time favorite YA authors, I have to restrain myself from reading the Tortall books more than once a year - and sometimes I fail...

Anyway, this is the first book with Keladry of Mindalen. Although a law passed ten years ago that girls were permitted to try for knighthood if they so choose, no one had yet come forth to do so. Now Kel wants to try for her shield, but she'll have even more trials than Alanna (The Song of the Lioness quartet) because everyone knows she is The Girl.

This describes Kel's first year as a page, and how she struggles to be accepted by the boys and her teachers. I love these books because all of the characters are well developed. Kel and her male friends are a rich tapestry of personalities, and we have the occasional cameo by someone in the earlier books. There is also the introduction of another culture that exists in this world, the Yamini (akin to an Oriental culture), who Kel's family spent the last several years with negotiating a peace treaty - so essentially she is straddling two different cultures and struggling to fit into either of these worlds.
2 vote Ilithyia | Jan 16, 2010 |
Friends have been telling me to read Tamora Pierce for years, but I didn’t want to read something where the idea of a female warrior as a main character, was shoved down my throat. But I was wrong! Pierce is a great writer who seems to make her heroines sweat and bleed to succeed. This is the first book in the Protector of the Small series, and is about a ten year old girl called Kel. Her dream is to become a lady knight, and she has to use her wits and her courageous spirit to overcome obstacles and prove that she has what it takes to make it. Kel is very believable and very relatable. She’s an ambitious girl, and I’m excited to read what happens next! Definitely a good read for all ages. ( )
  SandiParhar | Dec 7, 2009 |
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