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“Well, Page Keladry . . . now you realize combat isn’t woman’s work. I hope you’ve thought better of this experiment of yours, now that you’ve seen blood,” Lord Wyldon. — Page
Protector of the Small #2
by Tamora Pierce
AR Test, Diverse Characters, Must Read, Strong Female Character
Kel survived her first year as a page, but her training is only increasing as she gets older. She still has her studies and combat training, riding, and etiquette lessons. But now that Lord Wyldon has discovered her fear of heights, he constantly gives her tasks that test her limits—such as climbing to the top of the palace wall and mapping the lands beyond. To her friends, Kel insists that Lord Wyldon is just training her to be a better knight, but secretly she wonders if he is trying to drive her to quit.
Meanwhile, Joren claims he wants to turn over a new leaf and be friends. Kel outwardly agrees, but worries Joren is merely becoming craftier. Still, she has little time to worry about what Joren and his friends are up to because she is horrified to discover that she is becoming a woman. First, her breasts begin to grow, and then she starts her monthlies. While Kel wants things to stay exactly how they were, at least one of her friends has begun to notice that Kel is a girl…
Page is a strong follow-up to the first Protector of the Small novel. The same enjoyable cast remains, with the interesting addition of new characters such as Kel’s maid Lalasa. Similar to the first book, Kel has to prove herself capable despite her perceived “weakness” of being a girl. One obstacle that Kel must overcome is her deep fear of heights. Even though she does not want to confront her fears, she proves that she has the strength to pursue her dream. As Kel progresses through her training, Page continues with the theme of behaving honorably, as a true knight should.
Readers will enjoy the advancement of Kel’s training and watching as her relationships with her friends grow and change. Kel’s maid Lalasa is a well-developed character that grows throughout the story. At first, Lalasa is timid because she has suffered great abuse from men. However, while she is in Kel’s service, Lalasa develops confidence and flourishes into a capable young lady. This story highlights the importance of friendship as well as the importance of perusing one’s dreams.
While this book covers the span of three years, where the first book covered only the span of one, the story does not feel rushed or lacking. Kel is a unique heroine who must fight against her own fears as well as discrimination. Both male and female readers will be drawn to Kel’s world and will come away with a positive message—with hard work and determination, dreams can come true.
- Garvey asks Kel’s friend, “So, Faleron, you’re friends with her now because you can have her whenever you want?” In retaliation, Neal says, “Joren is so pretty. Say, Garvey, are you two friends because you can have him?”
- When thinking about self-defense, Kel remembers how, “Nariko had taught the court ladies, including Kel’s family, how to preserve their honor from rapists.”
- Kel tells Neal, “What you said about Harvey and Joren—it’s not an insult in Yaman. Some men prefer other men. Some women prefer other women.” Neal replies, “In the Eastern Lands, people like that pursue their loves privately . . . Manly fellows like Joren think it’s a deadly insult to be accused on wanting other men.”
- Kel is shocked to notice she is growing breasts. “Flabbergasted, Kel stared at the front of her nightgown. Sure enough, there were two slight bulges in the proper area for such a thing.”
- Kel starts her period. “Blood was on her loincloth and inner thighs. She stared at it, thinking something dreadful was happening. Then she remembered several talks she’d had with her mother. This had to be her monthlies, the bleeding that told every girl she was ready to have babies if she wanted them.”
- Kel’s mother tells her that she, “didn’t have much of a bosom until I got pregnant . . . your sister Patricine, though, she developed at twelve . . . Remember-you may be able to do so, but no one can force you to have babies. You do have a choice in these things. I’ll get you a charm to ward off pregnancy until you are ready for it.”
- Owen asks Kel, “When did you turn into a real girl?” Kel replies, “I’ve been a girl for a while, Owen.” He then exclaims, “It’s not like you’ve got melons or anything, they’re just noticeable.”
- When a man attacks her maid, Kel threatens to take him, “‘before the court of the Goddess . . . A man convicted of hurting women in the Goddess’s court faced harsh penalties; those for actual rape were the worst of all.”
- Kel gets in a fight with a group of bullies. “Garvey came at Kel from the right, punching at her head. She slid away from his punch, grabbed his arm, pushed her right foot forward, and twisted to the left. Garvey went over her hip into Vinson, who’d attacked on her left. Joren, at the center, came in fast as his friends hit the wall. Kel blocked Joren’s punch to her middle, but his blow was a feint; his left fist caught her right eye squarely.”
- The squires get in a fight when Neal insults Joren. “Garvey roared and charged, but Joren got to Neal first. Before they landed more than a punch each, Neal’s friends, including Kel, attacked them. More boys entered the brawl, kicking and hitting blindly, striking friend as often as foe. Kel nearly fainted when someone’s boot hit her bruised collarbone.”
- Kel and her friends are attacked by a group of bandits. The fight takes place over the course of eleven pages. “The enemy coming at her raised a short, curved sword. She saw he would be unable to touch her until he was directly alongside. Kel dropped her extra spear out of her way, making sure she wouldn’t trip on it. She brought her other spear point-down by her right calf, holding it in the glaive position broom-sweeps-clean. The Hillman was almost on her, just five yards, now –She stepped forward, to the right of the charging raider, and brought the spear up in a firm, sweeping movement. The leaf-shaped blade, razor-sharp, cut deep into the man’s leg before Kel had to dodge the downward sweep of his sword. The man turned his horse and came back at Kel. This time she drove her spear through his belly, where it lodged.”
- Kel fights off a man who attacked her maid. “Rather than shatter Vinson’s kneecap, she hit just above it, where the thigh muscle narrowed. He lurched, knocking Lalasa against the window frame, then let go. Lalasa scrambled back inside Kel’s room, tears streaming down her face.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Adults sometimes drink a goblet of wine with dinner.
- Phrases such as Goddess bless and by the gods are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture.
- The word wench is used several times.
- Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher.
- Several people at court have the Gift, which can be used for light, to heal, and more. One time, the king, “called a ball of light from the air so he could read.”
- Tortall has many gods. They are named differently but are similar to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture, but are not an integral part of the plot.
- Characters often pray before meals or battles. “We ask the guidance of Mithros in these uncertain times, when change threatens all that is time-honored and true. May the god’s light show us a path back to the virtues of our fathers and an end to uncertain times. We ask this of Mithros, god of the sun.”
- When climbing a terrifyingly high tower, Kel thinks that “When I reach the Realms of the Dead . . . I’m going to find the genius who designed this tower and I’m going to kill him a second time. Horribly.”
by Morgan Lynn