First Test (Protector of the Small #1)
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
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. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: 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 probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out...
(Review Originally Written in 2012)
So a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet Tamora Pierce at a convention in Minnesota by the name of Convergence. Because one of my close friends is a really big fan of hers, I knew that I would end up going to a lot of her panels if nothing else, so I knew that I had a responsibility to read at least one of her books, because somehow I have gone through my life without reading one (a tragedy, I know).
The book I decided on wasn't her first book, wasn't even the first book in the specific world I chose to enter, but as soon as I read the blurb about it, I knew that it was the one I wanted to read, First Test. This is a book in her Tortall world and I was so impressed by the characters and writing I have plans to plow through the rest of her Tortall books before moving on to her others. (Update from 2014: I have now read every single book she's come out with.)
In this book we have a character by the name of Kel, who is very original for a female protagonist. She is not the fiery, beautiful rebel, or the dark, secretive angster, she is also not the "normal" girl. Her personality is like a stone. She grew up in a culture where people do not share their emotions and this has transferred to the way she carries herself. On top of this she has a determination that everyone should strive to have.
She is a tomboy, but she doesn't mind wearing dresses, especially when she knows there is a point to prove with them.
As for the culture she grew up with, it is a very obvious adaption of Japanese culture, but what I really enjoyed is how accurate many of the things were and which pieces Pierce focused on and which to change were well done in my opinion.
Honestly the only real fault of this book for me is that it is too short! Of course I'm so used to reading the many YA books that are a million pages long. The characters are varied and interesting, the world intriguing and the situation very well dealt with.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong female characters and controversy involving them in their world. It also makes a really great book to read out to a younger sibling, as in this book Kel is quite young (though as she gets older, the experiences she has starts to get a bit too mature for a young audience I hear).