After reading Tammy’s newest novel, Tempests and Slaughter, I felt compelled to reread the entire Protector of the Small series. This is the first of probably a TON of re-read reviews to come!
Young Adult, Fantasy
Book 1 – First Test – 240 pages
Book 2 – Page – 290 pages
Book 3 – Squire – 400 pages
Book 4 – Lady Knight – 416 pages
PART OF A SERIES?:
The Protector of the Small Series
1999 to 2002
YOU CAN FIND THE BOOK AT:
Keladry of Mindelan has spent her whole life wanting nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of her hero, Alanna the Lioness. Finally old enough to enter training for knighthood, she soon discovers that being allowed to train even though she’s A Girl doesn’t make things easier.
At every turn, Kel is forced to prove herself, not only to her teachers, but to her fellow pages and squires. Her relentless sense of justice and her inability to turn away from someone in need makes as many enemies as allies. With the return of dangerous magical creatures from the Realms of the Gods, and the looming threat of war, the Protector of the Small has a hard road ahead.
It was a really long time ago that I first read this series, probably around 16 or so, so about fifteen years ago. And I can say with absolutely confidence that this is the kind of series that holds up after several years. I’ve done some rereading of books that I loved as a teen and they just don’t hold up sometimes, especially with the quality of YA just growing and growing over time. But this series is just absolutely wonderful.
I adore Kel and her story. I think I love Kel even more than Alanna and I think that’s because Tamora’s writing got more complex and because we got to see Kel struggle through all that it took to become a knight, just like Alanna, but with the whole world knowing that she is a girl. She goes through the same things that Alanna goes through, the same difficulties of being a girl trying to keep up with the boys, except that she has to do it openly as a girl. So she has to deal with nonbelievers, she has to deal with people spitting insults about being a girl, about her period and about her sexuality and all of that completely unoriginal insults. I have such an admiration of Kel for that, pushing herself to succeed in this, even with so many people against her.
But I also remembered how much I love Tamora for making her girl characters SO real. She touches on subjects that a lot of authors tend to just avoid or forget exists. She talks about getting your period and getting breasts and she talks about the fluctuating emotions that come with being a woman and she talks about sexuality and the idea of being able to have sex with a person that you don’t intend to marry but to be safe, to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy. While this particular series came out in the early 2000s, she’s been doing this since Alanna: The First Adventure back in the 1980s and NO ONE was doing that, not even really when The Protector of the Small came out and I have such an admiration for that, and its one of the biggest reasons why I like her. She doesn’t ignore it, or push it off as unimportant but getting breasts, getting your period, would be a traumatic experience for a girl surrounded by boys and Tamora does it in such a fantastic way.
All in all, I’m so glad I went through this super quick reread of this series because I loved remembering how much I loved this story, all the incredible characters, seeing Kel as a page and a squire and knight, seeing the entrance of characters from places in the fictional world that we had heard of but hadn’t seen before. I really felt like this series opened us up to a larger world in Tortall and the outlying countries and I loved seeing it. I loved seeing the older characters from the previous series. I really remembered why Kel is my second favorite after Aly (who has a special place in my heart since she was the first). These books came out nearly 20 years ago but they still are so great, have so much relevance and I’m so pleased they recently got a reprint with some seriously amazing covers because I’m hoping this leads more of the younger generation to read her. So many of us in our late 20s and 30s, and even some of us in the 40s, really love her, and give her a lot of credit for getting us into writing, into fantasy, into strong female characters and I think that would be incredible to pass along characters like Kel to teens today.